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Berkeley school budget to climb by 5.7 percent

April 25, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Next year's Berkeley County school budget is expected to be $73.6 million, up 5.7 percent from this year.

Much of the increase will pay for full-day kindergarten for the last four elementary schools that don't have it: Opequon, Tuscarora, Rosemont and Berkeley Heights, which are all in Martinsburg.

James R. Welton Jr., the district's assistant superintendent/treasurer, said full-day kindergarten is mandatory. "It's a requirement. We've been getting waivers from the state," he said.

The district is experiencing a space crunch because of rapid growth in enrollment. Two intermediate schools are planned in the next two years to free up space in the elementary schools.

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The increased spending will not have an effect on taxes. The regular levy of 20.48 cents per $100 of assessed value for Class I property is set by the state Legislature and has remained constant for years.

Welton said the additional spending is covered by extra state aid, which takes enrollment growth into account.

The district also expects to generate $11.8 million in revenue next fiscal year through an excess levy that Berkeley County voters approved two years ago. The excess levy rate is also constant each year, at 22.5 cents per $100 of assessed value for Class I, Welton said.

The rate for the debt service budget will decrease next year - from 5.89 cents for Class I to 5.2 cents - because of an increase in assessed valuations in the county, according to Welton.

The Board of Education unanimously approved the budget and the levies Tuesday night. The budget will be sent to the state for its approval.

Welton said that the additional kindergarten classes will cause the district to hire 11 regular education teachers, 10 special education teachers, eight instructional aides, four bus drivers and one custodian.

The schools adding full-day kindergarten will use portable classrooms, or trailers.

Elementary schools in the north end of the county started full-day kindergarten two years ago, while the southern end and parts of Martinsburg began a year ago, Welton said.

The other major expense in next year's budget is school buses. About $180,000 has been added, for a total of $889,000, which should pay for about 17 or 18 full-size buses, Welton said.

On the other hand, the line for textbooks is scheduled to drop from $1.9 million this year to about $1.4 million next year. Welton said that part of this year's allocation was meant to cover the purchase of some of next year's books.

Welton said multimillion-dollar expenses such as food service and special education are not fully included in next year's budget because some large grants come in throughout the year. Including those, the budget will probably top off "in the $82 million to $85 million range," he said.

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