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County may add school funding

May 24, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Two Washington County Commissioners say there's a way to fund teacher salary increases in next year's county budget, which is scheduled for a final vote Tuesday.

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Commissioners Paul L. Swartz and Bert L. Iseminger said Wednesday that county staff, working at the commissioners' request, found about $630,000 in savings and additional revenue in the $169 million spending plan for the 2000-2001 fiscal year that begins July 1.

The additional money, if approved, represents the money needed to fully fund a 4 percent pay raise for teachers. That would enable teachers to receive an additional 1 percent raise the governor has pledged on the condition the county give teachers at least a 4 percent raise.

Swartz said the 1 percent "carrot" from the governor, and the desire to keep county teachers' salaries competitive with those is other counties, are the reasons why he wants to fully fund the raises.

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County Administrator Rodney Shoop said sources of the roughly $630,000 include:

-- $245,000 the county will not have to spend on debt payments because the county was able to delay issuing bonds until the end of the year.

-- $100,000 in additional revenue from the recordation tax, which is collected when property sales are recorded. Shoop said the strong economy and strong revenues in the first few months of this year prompted them to increase the projected amount of revenue that tax is expected to bring in.

-- $140,000 saved from next year's budget by replacing the Sheriff's Department computer system during the current budget year.

- $60,000 in additional revenue from Social Security payments to inmates at the Washington County Detention Center.

-- Smaller items such as a $10,000 increase in the payments for housing federal inmates and deferring the purchase of a new vehicle.

A decision on the possible budget adjustments is expected Tuesday, before the commissioners vote on the budget.

With Swartz and Iseminger in support of the adjustments, the support of only one more commissioner is needed for the changes to be included in the budget.

Commissioner John L. Schnebly said Wednesday he would have to review the proposed budget changes before deciding whether he supported them.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said Wednesday he thought the School Board might receive additional funding.

"We'll take a second look at it on Tuesday morning," Snook said.

But Snook, who voted against the proposed budget, said he probably would still vote against the budget because of the proposed tax increases it contains.

Commissioner William J. Wivell did not return telephone messages left Wednesday. Wivell previously said he would vote against any tax increases.

Both income and property taxes would increase under the county's proposed budget.

Swartz's and Iseminger's statements came a day after a public hearing on the county budget during which two-thirds of those who spoke asked for more money for the School Board.

Swartz and Iseminger said they weren't swayed by the statements at the hearing, which Swartz said were "orchestrated" by school system employees.

Swartz, a retired Washington County educator, said that practice was used when he was a teacher.

"It certainly was orchestrated for the Board of Education's sake," Swartz said. "But they're preaching to the choir, really."

Swartz and Iseminger said they have been looking for the additional money for teachers raises since long before the Tuesday hearing.

"This is something we wanted to do before (the hearing)," Swartz said.

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