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County asks for school funding increase

July 24, 2000

County asks for school funding increase



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


With prospects of improving the way state money is distributed to public schools seemingly difficult, Washington County officials gave a simple message Monday night: public school funding needs to be increased.

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About 15 people testified at a regional public hearing held by the Maryland Commission on Education Finance, Equity and Excellence at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater. About 40 residents attended the hearing.

Those testifying on behalf of Washington County and the Board of Education were Commissioners Gregory I. Snook and John Schnebly and Board of Education President Paul Bailey.

The Commission reviews current education financing formulas and accountability measures and makes recommendations on how state funding can be improved.

Snook said state funding for education in the county isn't keeping pace with costs. The county is receiving about one quarter of a percent increase in education funds from the state for fiscal year 2001.

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The county's fiscal year 2001 general fund budget is about $121.6 million. Of that, about 58.5 percent, or just over $71 million, will be used to fund Washington County public schools, while local funding for Hagerstown Community College will be about $4.4 million, according to Snook.

The state's projected contribution for fiscal 2001 is $52.8 million, Bailey has said.

In order to fund $4 million in salary adjustments in the school system, the county had to raise taxes for fiscal 2001, Snook said. The state approved pay increases for teachers if the local jurisdiction could provide matching funds, which prompted 23 of the 24 school systems in the state to raise teacher salaries by at least 4 percent for the next two years.

"Unless the state changes the way in which it funds education, we will become educationally bankrupt - unable to fund those programs which must be put into place to support the mandates which the state sets into motion," Snook said. "And we will be fiscally bankrupt, because our citizens cannot bear the burden of tax increases year after year."

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