School budget is driven by need

February 03, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Washington County Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr. on Tuesday night unveiled a $116 million budget proposal for the first school year of the new millennium.

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The spending plan is $8 million higher than the current year's spending level, or a 7.4 percent increase.

Of that new money, Bartlett is seeking $6.5 million from the Washington County Commissioners, or 11.8 percent more than the current county funding of $55 million.

Bartlett's proposal is different from those of previous years because it is a "needs-driven" budget. It lists the top 52 priorities in a pool of some 300 funding requests.

The top 22 priorities would be funded under the plan. They include a 1.5-percent pay raise for teachers above expected salary increases, 23 new teachers and seven new school buses.


All 300 of the requests will one day be granted, according to Bartlett. "Eventually we will get to all the priorities," he said.

Bartlett's presentation was the first time Washington County Board of Education members saw his proposal.

"The seven decision-makers have not seen this material before," board member B. Marie Byers said.

The proposal's top priority is the reappropriation of a $695,488 surplus from the last budget year that the County Commissioners allowed the School Board to carry over to balance the current budget, according to Bartlett.

"It will not be available in the fiscal year 2000 budget unless reappropriated by the commissioners," he said.

A $173,053 reduction in this year's rollover budget is identified as the second priority. The amount represents one-time expenses from the 1998 budget year, according to Bartlett.

The third priority is the purchase of seven new buses at a cost of $378,700. State law requires that buses used to carry students to and from school be replaced every 12 years.

Washington County needs 18 new buses, but there is funding for 11 of those in the current rollover budget, Bartlett said.

Anticipated salary increases with benefits, the proposal's fourth priority, would cost $4.5 million. That includes Bartlett's proposal for a "cohort adjustment," or pay increase for all school system employees.

The adjustment is designed to make local teacher salaries more competitive with those in other counties.

It would give teachers a 1.5-percent raise above step increases, while administrative, support and other staff would get a 1 percent raise.

Washington County teachers' salaries rank among the lowest in the state, according to Bartlett.

"Unless we do this, we'll never gain ground," he said. "I hope we can raise their pay to a competitive level."

A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. in School Board Central Office.

A copy of the plan can be obtained by contacting Community Relations Specialist Donna Messina at 301-766-2809.

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