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School budget items cut

January 30, 2001

School budget items cut



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


The Washington County Board of Education Tuesday cut an item from the schools superintendent's proposed fiscal 2002 budget, and come up with some grant money, freeing up $284,000 for other items listed in the budget.

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The School Board cut $216,000 for four new school buses and will use $68,000 in grants to pay the salary of a software specialist.

The board also agreed to eliminate next year's convocation ceremony, which will save the school system more than $20,000, according to School Board members.

The board's Finance Committee, made up of School Board members Roxanne Ober, Paul Bailey and Doris Nipps, made the recommendations at a budget work session.

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The committee was created by the School Board to help the board make decisions on financial issues. Nipps was absent from the work session.

Chris South, the School Board's director of budget and finance, said that if the software specialist's salary is funded with grant money, the school system would be left to pay about $25,000 for maintenance of software and hardware.

The board also agreed to look for alternate grants to fund the Abacus specialist and program in the future. The grant expires in 2003.

Abacus is a computer program that monitors student progress of individual curriculum goals and provides teachers with personalized lesson plans for students. It also helps identify students at risk of not earning their high school diplomas. The Abacus specialist oversees the program.

The School Board decided to eliminate the $216,000 requested for four new school buses because it had already agreed to buy two new buses, which were recently paid for through this year's budget, Ober said. The School Board also previously agreed to renew the services of two school bus contractors, eliminating the need to buy four new buses.

Ober said the School Board's actions gives it the financial leeway to consider other priorities in the budget.

"It's not that we're saving money from the operating budget, but it would give us the flexibility to look at other plans on the priority list," Ober, chairwoman of the Finance Committee, said of the new money changes.

She said the committee would continue to consider budget changes and plans to look at Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr.'s decision to upgrade the board's public relations position from a community relations specialist to a public information officer.

The upgraded position would pay between about $53,000 to about $73,000 a year. The community relations specialist position paid about $36,000.

The School Board also voted to give itself more time to consider additional changes. It originally planned to adopt the proposed budget on Feb. 6, but will now wait until Feb. 20. It has rescheduled its next public hearing on the budget from Feb. 13 to Feb. 27.

Bartlett has proposed a $127.4 million budget for fiscal year 2002. The budget lists $9.6 million in new money requests, with $6.9 million, or about 70 percent, coming from local funds.

The board also agreed to cut its schoolwide convocation, which has been a kickoff to each new academic year since 1998, when Bartlett implemented it. It has been the target of criticism since it began, with several school employees complaining that it was a waste of time and money.

Bartlett has said in the past that the convocation is a way to bring the school system together and start the year off as a team. The board hires a motivational speaker to inspire its employees at the start of the year.

Ober said the total cost that was proposed for the convocation in the 2002 budget was $20,400.

Mary Wilfong was the only board member who thought the convocation should remain, but only with a reduction in cost and other changes.

"It would be really important to ... talk about what we would hope to happen to our students for the forthcoming year."

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