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Board of Education hears comments on budget

January 05, 2001

Board of Education hears comments on budget



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer


Three people spent about 10 minutes commenting on next year's proposed school budget during a public hearing Thursday evening.

Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr. has proposed a $127.4 million budget for fiscal year 2002, which begins in July.

The proposed spending plan is almost 8 percent higher than this fiscal year's $118.4 million budget.

At the hearing, Bonnie Parks, the president of the local bargaining unit that represents more than 940 Board of Education employees, spoke about a dispute over prescription drug coverage.

She said that Local 1 has filed a grievance because the School Board unilaterally changed contractual prescription coverage. Next year's proposed budget does not compensate employees who now pay up to 10 times as much because of the change, she said.

Tom Janus said the School Board should be certain that increases in school funding reflect the county's economic and demographic trends. Otherwise, spending should not rise above the rate of inflation, he said.

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Russell Williams, who lost a bid for the School Board in November, questioned several budget lines, including additional school buses and foreign language.

He wondered if Allegany County would be billed for the cost of a new special education teacher at Hancock Middle/Senior High School. Allegany County students began attending Hancock this school year.

The board did not respond to any of the speakers' comments or questions.

Parks said Local 1 and the School Board are negotiating salaries and other money-related issues. It was unusual and improper for the board to make a contract proposal about the prescription plan since it's the subject of a grievance, she said.

After the meeting, Bartlett said, "We haven't done anything wrong." He declined to comment further.

Bartlett said the lion's share of new money in the next fiscal year is $5.296 million for staff salary increases.

"Despite the salary gains we have made for all of our employees over the past four years, other jurisdictions, both in and out of state, have kept pace with or moved ahead of Washington County," he wrote in a synopsis of his proposal.

Other additional major expenses include increased health care at a cost of $2.345 million and 12 replacement school buses for $896,000.

Rising energy costs will require another $350,000, Bartlett said.

He also wants to spend $216,000 on four school buses to take over current contract routes.

For the first time in four years, the proposed budget includes money to cover general inflation, Bartlett said. The increase is 1 percent, or $181,000.

Bartlett is asking the Washington County Commissioners to fund $6.9 million, or about 70 percent, of the $9.6 million cost of his seven new initiatives.

In the last three years, county education funding has risen from $50.2 million to $63.8 million, an average of 8.3 percent per year, the budget document indicates.

Next year's funding request from the county is about 10.8 percent higher than this year's amount.

The School Board will hold work sessions on the budget this month and is scheduled to present it to the County Commissioners in March.

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