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Board of Education presents budget plan

April 07, 1999

School budgetBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




Few residents attended and spoke as the Washington County Board of Education presented its proposed budget to the County Commissioners on Tuesday night.

The commissioners accepted the $115.6 million budget without what School Board President Edwin Hayes called "the splitting of hairs and gnashing of teeth" that has marked the annual exchange in years past.

Hayes said the spending plan represents students' needs. "There isn't any fluff in this budget," he said.

The commissioners made clear that the $61.6 million share asked of them may be too much. County Commissioner Paul Swartz said the county's total requests are about $3 million more than it can spend.

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"Somewhere services will have to be cut or taxes will have to be raised," he said. "I'm not sure we'll be popular in either department. But we will put our heads together to make sure education is a top priority."

The commissioners asked a few pointed questions. County Commissioner John Schnebly asked what the School Board is doing to better prepare students for college.

Hayes referred to the coordinator of advanced programs, a new $62,500 position intended to help guide the school system's best students. "I'm not sure we're on the same wavelength," Schnebly replied.

Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger asked, "What are you doing to get rid of some extraneous requirements put on teachers?"

Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Theresa Flak said more assessments mean more paperwork. "We can't really free teachers from that process," she said.

Teacher Allen Zube reminded the commissioners that they campaigned as education supporters. He said the people who voted for them knew they might have to raise taxes.

"Put your money with your platform," he said.

Zube was one of nine people who testified at the public hearing in North Hagerstown High School's auditorium. Like him, teacher of the year Carol Corwell-Martin spoke in support of the pay raise given teachers.

She said good teachers are shopping around for salaries. In a competitive labor market, the raises are needed to attract and keep good teachers, she said.

Jenny Belliotti, president of the Washington County Council of Parent-Teachers Associations, spoke in favor of the eight middle school reading teachers included in the budget. "It's absolutely necessary that we extend this program," she said.

Terry Hovermale, president of the Washington County School Bus Contractors Association, asked the commissioners to support raises and other rate increases for the 39 contracted drivers.

George Cassutto, a North High teacher, said schools need better computers and networks. "We must begin to start thinking of investing in a higher level of technology," he said.

The County Commissioners will hold another budget hearing April 27 at Hagerstown Community College.

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