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School Board seeks $744,000 more for teachers' salaries

May 09, 2000|By JULIE E. GREENE

The Washington County Board of Education wants $744,000 more from the County Commissioners, an issue that won't be resolved until after the May 23 public hearing on the county's proposed budget.

During a joint Tuesday afternoon meeting at the County Administration Building, Commissioner Bert Iseminger said he wants to make sure the proposed budget includes a 4 percent pay increase for teachers that is necessary to get 1 percent from the state.

School Board officials recently confirmed with the state that local funding must include step increases as well, which total $744,000, said Director of Finance Chris South.

South said the School Board doesn't expect a surplus this fiscal year so board members are looking to the commissioners for the additional funding.

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The county's $121.45 million proposed budget calls for $64.6 million for the School Board, or $1.6 million less than the School Board requested.

When Iseminger asked board members if they had made any budget adjustments after realizing there would be a shortfall, School Board Vice President Doris J. Nipps said "no."

"We stand behind the budget we gave you," Nipps said.

Board member Mary L. Wilfong called the county's budget proposal "narrow thinking" and said she didn't want to be elected if she couldn't fulfill the School Board's needs.

School Board President Paul W. Bailey said there's "little wiggle room" in a budget that spends more than 80 percent on salaries.

The School Board's budget request includes money to hire seven high school reading teachers. Those teachers are needed to help many high school students catch up on their reading skills, board member B. Marie Byers said.

The whole-language program did not stress sounding out words and breaking them apart, but taught students how to read by writing without regard to grammar and punctuation.

Iseminger agreed the teachers are needed, but said the board can't afford them now.

The Commissioners and School Board officials will wait until after the May 23 budget hearing at Hagerstown Community College to decide how to deal with the shortfall. If the commissioners don't favor another tax increase, they could dip into their surplus or cuts will have to be made.

After several years of cutting programs Nipps said she didn't want to go down that road again.

"We did damage to the system because of some of the things we had to cut back," Nipps said.

If the School Board has to reduce the number of employees, class sizes could increase and some programs cut, angering parents, Nipps said.

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