Schools: Last year's pledges

February 05, 1999

The Washington County Commissioners on Wednesday carefully avoided making any quick commitment on the Washington County school system's $116 million budget proposal, which would require $6.5 million in new county money, an increase of 11.8 percent over the county's current contribution. It's still early in the process, but it's interesting to review what the five said about education last year on the campaign trail.

Commissioners' President Greg Snook's platform didn't say much about education, other than a proposal to expand the Technological Innovation Center at Hagerstown Community College. Last May, however, he did broker a deal to get the schools $1 million more than the commissioners initially wanted to spend.

Commissioner Bert Iseminger called for initiation of a school-based budgeting process. Since then, that's been done, though one top PTA official complained that some prinicipals had parents sign off on previously prepared budgets instead of involving them in the writing process.


After that, Iseminger said, there should be a "state of the schools" presentation to the community and public hearings.

"Then I think it's the job of the commissioners to fund that budget, even if it means a tax increase," Iseminger said.

Commissioner Paul Swartz, a former school administrator, said in August he would "support job promotion, crime prevention and education." In October he said that education should account for 60 percent of the county's budget. In the county's 1999 financial projection, it's estimated that 58 percent will go to education.

William Wivell, in his April announcement, said that he'd seen the list of teachers' salaries published in the paper "and they seem all right to me." In June, he noted that while salaries might be lower here, so is the cost of living. All expenditures must be scrutinized, he said.

As for Commissioner John Schnebly, he said that if the local schools would develop "performance standards," then "I would commit myself to securing greater funding..."

But all that was last year, prior to the delivery of the schools' strategic plan, which called for $13 million in new spending over the next five years. Whether the county board is willing (or able) to go halfway to that goal in 1999 remains to be seen.

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