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School board seeks public input on budget

February 26, 2001

School board seeks public input on budget



By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

For the second year in a row, Washington County public schools will use a telephone survey to seek public feedback on its $127.4 million proposed fiscal 2002 operating budget.

Those interested will be able to call a toll-free number to participate in the poll. They'll be given a brief description of budget items and asked to rank them according to priority on a scale from one to six.

One means the item is not important and six means it's extremely important. The poll will cost the school system $3,500.

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Washington County Board of Education member Roxanne Ober said Sunday the board's Finance Committee is working on the list of items that will be included in the poll and that the survey could be ready by March 7 and run through March 14.

"We hope this is a tool for public dialogue to get people more involved in the budget process," Ober said.

At a recent School Board meeting, board member Doris Nipps said the survey could help reach people who don't attend the budget hearings.

Last year, board officials said the attendance at hearings had been poor for the past few years. The phone survey could interest those who want to comment on the budget but without doing so in person.

"People just weren't showing up at budget hearings," Nipps said.

School Board member Paul Bailey said Monday the school system received about 2,000 responses during the week that the poll ran last year. Last year's survey contained 10 questions.

"The purpose is to give the public an opportunity to respond to priorities that are in our operating budget before we submit it to the County Commissioners," Bailey said.

The School Board is expected to present its proposed budget to the commissioners at 7 p.m. on April 2 at Western Heights Middle School.

The survey is anonymous and confidential and takes about five minutes to complete. After a brief welcome, participants will be asked if they are students, employees, residents with children in the school system or residents without children in the school system. They will then be asked to rank the budget items.

The toll-free phone number and days the poll will run could be announced this week.

A copy of the budget can be picked up at the Board of Education's central office at 820 Commonwealth Ave. in Hagerstown.

The School Board will hold a public hearing on the budget tonight at 7 p.m. at the central office. A budget work session will follow the hearing.

Anyone interested in speaking at the hearing can register through the superintendent's office at 301-766-2815 before 4 p.m. 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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