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School budget facing the ax

March 27, 1998|By STEVEN T. DENNIS

School budget facing the ax

Funding for the Washington County Board of Education took center stage at a County Commissioners budget workshop Thursday.

The commissioners set a $4 million increase in operating funds as a working figure. The school board requested an $8.6 million increase for pay raises and new programs.

A $4 million increase in operating funding would bring the county's contribution to $54.2 million, more than half of the county's $105 million working budget.

County Commissioner James R. Wade said that the county was working toward fully funding the school board's request, minus a $3 million pay raise.

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Wade said he felt that the additional $3 million request was thrown into the budget and could be addressed in future years.

County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he wouldn't support spending any of this year's estimated $4 million budget surplus on next year's school board operating costs.

Snook said he didn't want to put the next board of commissioners in a hole.

Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said he hasn't had enough time to review the school board's request, which the commissioners received Tuesday, to make a decision.

Commissioner R. Lee Downey said the commissioners need to increase funding by more than the $3 million increase they approved last year.

Commissioner John S. Shank held up four fingers, and the commissioners settled on $4 million as a working figure.

School board Vice President B. Marie Byers said she hopes the commissioners reconsider.

Without a $6 million increase in funding, the school board will have to cut one of its priorities, which include pay raises, 38 new teachers and a new elementary reading program, she said.

"That $4 million simply doesn't speak to the priorities that are necessary for quality education in Washington County," Byers said.

"We no longer can tread water," she said.

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