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School Board to continue fight for funds cut from budget

April 14, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

The budget battle is far from over, members of the Washington County Board of Education said Wednesday.

President Edwin Hayes vowed to continue fighting for $1.9 million the County Commissioners cut from the School Board's budget Tuesday.

"I was unpleasantly surprised," Hayes said. "We're going to continue talking to them and putting the heat on them to make education a priority."

The School Board's budget represents needs, not wants, he said.

The cuts are unofficial until the County Commissioners adopt their budget on May 4, said Hayes. He plans to speak in favor of full funding at the commissioners' April 27 public hearing at Hagerstown Community College.

"They talk like it's wrapped up in a tidy little bow and it's not," Hayes said. "I thought we had elected County Commissioners who had education at the top of their priority list. Obviously we didn't."

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Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said of Hayes' comment, "I don't really give a whole lot of thought to that ... I know all the commissioners consider education a top priority."

The School Board gets the lion's share of the county's money, he said, and the 8.1 percent raise is fair. "We had to make cuts in every department," he said.

Several of the School Board members returned from California on Wednesday and were unavailable for comment. Vice President Paul Bailey echoed Hayes' complaint.

"I feel very disappointed we weren't fully funded," he said. "There is still some window of opportunity and I'm optimistic perhaps something can be done."

Without full funding, the school system will continue to fall behind in key areas such as class size, he said. "We're attempting to make up what we lost in the past and it's just not happening."

The board's budget proposal listed 52 items in order of priority.

The board asked the commissioners for $6.5 million more than this year, an 11.8 percent increase that would pay for the top 22 items.

The commissioners agreed to a $4.5 million increase, or $59.7 million. That will fund the top seven items, including eight new middle school teachers and a pay raise for teachers.

The items that would not be funded include five new elementary teachers, 10 middle school teachers, two assistant principals and two interns, pay increases for contract bus drivers, substitute teachers, four special education teachers and a coordinator of advanced programs.

County Commissioner Paul Swartz has said the School Board's budget contains at least $1.6 million in "fluff," or unnecessary items. Hayes disagreed Wednesday. "I truly don't think so," he said.

Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett said he has no plan for trimming costs. "We are looking at the budget," he said. "We will study it to see what actions we can take if any. We will do as much as we can do to work it out."

-- Items affected

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