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School Board OKs budget

May 07, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

By making some last-minute changes Friday, including finding about $600,000 in "unexpected revenues," the Washington County Board of Education has tentatively approved a balanced budget for fiscal 2000.

The proposed $59.7 million operating budget is about 8.2 percent higher than fiscal 1999. The fiscal year begins July 1.

But the total budget will be about $2.7 million less than board members had hoped since the County Commissioners gave $1.9 million less than requested and a bill that would have provided $860,000 failed in the legislature.

At a joint meeting Tuesday afternoon, the School Board will ask the Washington County Commissioners to approve reappropriation needed to balance the operating budget.

The School Board will officially vote to adopt the budget at a later meeting.

Under the plan that board members agreed to during a work session Friday, some projects planned for fiscal 2000 will be paid for using money from the current fiscal year. Board President Edwin Hayes missed Friday's meeting because of a death in the family and board member B. Marie Byers was absent because of health problems.

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The budget is different from those of previous years because it is a "needs-driven" budget. When the budget proposal was unveiled in February it included the top 52 priorities in a pool of some 300 funding requests.

As planned, the balanced budget will fund the top 22 priorities, including a 1.5-percent pay raise for teachers above expected salary increases, 23 new teachers and seven new school buses, Vice President Paul Bailey said.

Board members spent several minutes during the two-hour meeting expressing concern about how they should explain the budget adjustments to the commissioners and how it might be perceived.

Board members did not want, for example, what they called "unexpected revenues" to be referred to as "surplus," the term used on the hand-outs circulated during the meeting.

"It is too close to that word, 'fluff,'" said Board Member Andrew Humphreys.

Commissioner Paul L. Swartz has said the School Board has enough "fluff" in its budget that it could withstand receiving less money than requested from the county.

The balanced budget includes a $971,000 revenue increase because of job vacancies, late hires and "turnover credit," Bailey said. The latter is money saved because employees retiring were replaced with employees getting a lower salary.

The changes made to the budgets will result in a tight year so the School Board is going to have to reject more mid-year budget requests, Bailey said.

"The wiggle room will be very limited," he said.

Board member Mary Wilfong considered aloud whether they should press the County Commissioners on Tuesday for commitments to give the School Board some money from the county's fiscal 1999 budget surplus.

Before adopting its budget Tuesday, the County Commissioners voted to use $520,000 from an expected budget surplus of about $3 million. The money will pay for interactive television expenses and preparing for any possible Year 2000 computer problems.

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