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Schools may lose $300,000 in funds

April 01, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Proposed changes to Maryland legislation may drain about $300,000 in funds the Washington County Board of Education expected for next year's budget.

The news is another blow to the proposed $116 million budget. The first hit came last week when the County Commissioners said the spending plan is $3.2 million more than the county can afford without raising taxes.

Under the state's funding formula, the local school system will get about $44.63 million in regular state funding for the budget, according to the superintendent's budget.

The School Board expected to get $860,821 in additional state aid next year, but Budget and Finance Director Chris South said Tuesday it looks like that amount will be closer to $567,000.

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"The impact of that will be felt quite significantly locally," he said.

Maryland House Bill 34 outlines a plan to distribute "school operating support grants" to each county's board of education. Educators originally expected the bill to dole out $30 million, but the House of Delegates decreased the amount to $20 million.

Under the direction of State Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick, Washington County's School Board included its share of the state aid under revenues in a line item titled, "bridge money."

The legislation is known as a "bridge bill" because it is intended to provide financial assistance through fiscal year 2002 while the state decides how to adjust its funding formula.

House Bill 34 passed its third reading in the House of Delegates 138--0 on March 24 and was sent to the state Senate, according to Human Resources Director Phil Ray.

If the Senate passes the bill as amended, boards of education statewide will get less money than expected.

Schools Superintendent Herman Bartlett said the proposed budget will take a big hit if the School Board doesn't get the expected state aid. "We're all a little bit surprised it's not happening," he said.

Bartlett said he wanted to warn the County Commissioners of the possible change before presenting the budget to them at an April 6 public hearing. The School Board asked him to draft a formal letter.

- Staff writer Kerry Fraley contributed to this article.

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