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School Board ready to adopt budget

February 18, 2001

School Board ready to adopt budget



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


The Washington County School Board expects to tentatively adopt the proposed $127.4 million fiscal 2002 operating budget Tuesday night.

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Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett presented the budget to the board in early January. Since then, the board has made several changes that freed up about $300,000 in new money requests.

School Board members have said the board isn't saving money by freeing up the some of the new money requests, but rather, the move gives it flexibility to spend the money on other budget priorities.

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

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The school bus cuts were made because the board agreed to buy just two new buses that were paid for through this year's budget. It also previously agreed to renew the services of two school bus contractors, which eliminated the requested funds for the four new buses.

The School Board agreed to use a grant to pay the salary of its Abacus specialist and look for alternate ways to fund the position and software in 2003, when the grant expires. 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 School Board also freed up $34,986 that was requested to pay the salary of a part-time health resource teacher. The position is normally paid for through a grant, which was thought to run out at the end of the school year. After the board's Finance Committee looked over the grant, it discovered that the grant was not expiring and that the board didn't need to allocate the money.

The board, however, will save $20,400 by eliminating its annual convocation ceremony. It decided last month to pull the event, which has kicked off every new school year since 1998.

In the beginning of February, the board voted to downgrade the salary of the public information officer position. The salary range for the post is between $49,825 and $65,011 a year. The original salary had been posted at between $56,046 to $73,128. A person previously hired for a similar position was paid about $36,000 a year.

Overall, the budget includes a request for $9.6 million in new money, with $6.9 of that coming from local funds. The local request is 10.8 percent higher than the $63.8 million the county contributed in fiscal 2001. The total request to the county for fiscal 2002 is $70.7 million.

The new money requests include:

--$5.3 million in salary increases for all staff

--$2.3 million in cost increases to health care benefits

--$896,000 for 16 replacement school buses

--$350,000 in increased energy costs

--$227,255 in miscellaneous contractual obligations, including a $74,875 for negotiated fuel adjustment with bus contractors; $53,460 for a negotiated increase to workshop pay; $34,560 for negotiated leadership compensation; and $64,400 in rental fees for school copiers

--$181,012 for an expected 1 percent general inflationary increase

The School Board will hold a budget work session on Tuesday at 9 a.m. to discuss additional budget adjustments. It will also discuss the proposed budget at a regular work session at 10 a.m. Tentative adoption is expected Tuesday night at the board's 7 p.m. business meeting. All of the meetings will be held at the Board of Education's central office on Commonwealth Avenue.

The board has also scheduled several other budget meetings:

--Feb. 27 - a public hearing on the proposed budget, followed by a work session to make changes. The hearing and meeting will be held at the board's central office.

--March 6 - adoption of the proposed budget

--March 19 - (tentative date) the board submits its budget to the County Commissioners.

To comment at the public hearing, register through the superintendent's office at 301-766-2815 before 4 p.m. on Feb. 27, or at the board auditorium at least 30 minutes before the meeting. Speakers are encouraged to bring written copies of their testimony.

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