More school spending urged at budget hearing

May 23, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Two-thirds of those who spoke during the Tuesday hearing on Washington County's proposed budget asked the County Commissioners to spend more on education.

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Of the 36 people who spoke during the hearing, 24, including teachers, parents, students and School Board members, asked the commissioners to fully fund the School Board's budget request for the 2000-2001 fiscal year.

At one point Tom Crosby, a Boonsboro teacher, asked the more than 200 people in the audience to stand if they want the commissioners to fully fund the School Board's budget request. All but five to 10 people stood.

The School Board would receive almost $2.2 million less than it requested under the proposed county budget, said School Board President Paul Bailey.


The overwhelming concern expressed was that without full funding the School Board would not be able to give pay raises to teachers and other school system employees.

During the hearing, held at the Kepler Theater at Hagerstown Community College, Bailey said that without full funding "we can't give salary increases to all Board of Education employees."

After the meeting, Bailey said he couldn't say whether such a budget cut would mean no raises, or more cuts in other areas.

New literacy teachers for the high schools and additional guidance counselors would be among the school budget items that would have to be cut, Bailey said.

"We don't have enough money in the schools. ... We don't have the technology to compete," said Mohammed Ali, valedictorian of North Hagerstown High School.

"We have a large percentage of teachers close to retirement. ... We have to increase salaries to become more competitive," said Ed Kuczynski, of Williamsport.

Several people said the commissioners should focus on increasing funding for education instead of possibly spending money on a new baseball stadium.

"The three of you who voted for the stadium. I'm sorry I voted for you and will correct that mistake the next time. ... I'm speechless with your priorities," said Joe Lane of Smithsburg, who went to the microphone with a young boy and a sign that read "schools not stadiums."

Five people, including Lane, spoke against county funding for a new baseball stadium. A majority of the commissioners have backed a plan to use money from the county hotel tax to help pay for a new stadium.

A few people spoke against the two proposed tax increases, although some others said they were OK with a tax increase as long as the money goes to education.

The property tax rate, which is currently $2.31 per $100 of assessed value, is proposed to go to $2.37 per $100 of assessed value. That increase would cost the average taxpayer about $29 a year, according to the county.

The income tax rate would increase by about 10 percent, under the proposal. That would cost the average taxpayer about $73 a year, according to county documents.

The property tax hike would be effective July 1, 2000, according to the county. The income tax increase would take effect Jan. 1, 2001.

"If you must raise my taxes, fine. Put it to something that will do my children and grandchildren a lot of good," said David Wilt.

The commissioners did not respond to the comments made during the hearing.

The commissioners are scheduled to vote on the total $169 million proposed budget Tuesday morning. The budget would be effective July 1.

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