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Board of Education presents budget to Commissioners

April 03, 2001

Board of Education presents budget to Commissioners



By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The requests include:


--$5.3 million in salary increases for all staff.

--$2.3 million in proposed health insurance rate increases.

--$896,000 for 16 replacement school buses.

--$679,720 in nonpublic school placement for special education students.

--$350,000 in expected utility cost increases.

--$181,000 for an expected 1 percent general inflationary increase.

--$138,000 for four additional contract school buses in Hancock.

--$50,000 to bring the total teachers' tuition reimbursement to $250,000.

--$35,000 for teacher signing bonuses.

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--$7,971 for rate increases for athletic officials.



The Washington County Board of Education said Monday night it's seeking a $10.5 million increase to its fiscal 2002 operating budget to accommodate rising costs and keep up with the needs of its students.

About 25 people, most of them Board of Education staff, turned out to hear the board present its $128 million budget to the County Commissioners at Western Heights Middle School. Four members of the audience addressed the School Board and commissioners, most in support of the budget.

The School Board is asking that $6.9 of the $10.5 million increase come from county funds. The total county contribution to the budget would be about $70 million if it fully funds the School Board's request.

The commissioners have said the School Board should know how much it will receive by the end of April. If it does not fully fund the request, the board would have to cut its budget.

The county allocated about $63 million for this year's education operating budget of $118 million.

"These requests give us the authority to do what is best for the students of Washington County public schools," said Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett said. "Our citizens and students deserve no less."

The board has said salary increases are important to attract and retain teachers and administrators.

"Every (county) administrator is below state average for his or her position" in terms of salaries, said School Board member Doris Nipps. "And the student-to-administrator ratio is one of the highest in the state at 19th."

There are 24 jurisdictions in the state.

"Seventy-five percent of all principals in the state will be eligible to retire by 2005," said School Board Vice President Bernadette Wagner. "Washington County must be prepared for this situation."

Nipps said Washington County ranks 18th in the state in what it pays teachers with master's degrees who are at the top level of the salary scale.

After hearing the presentation, the commissioners asked questions about several budget items, including special education funding, health insurance rate increases, salary increases and the funding of literacy resource teachers, who are trained to help teachers teach reading and assist students who need help in the subject.

Commissioner John Schnebly said that when comparing the salaries of Washington County school staff, the board should remember that the cost of living is different in other counties.

"We do need to keep in mind that living in Washington County is not the same as living in Anne Arundel County," Schnebly said.

Jenny Belliotti, president of the Washington County Council of PTAs, said she supports full funding of the budget. She also said that the school system needed to hire more guidance counselors, an issue that is not part of the new money requests from the board.

"Most of these requests are no-brainers," she said. "If the costs go up, you got to pay it. These are the needs of our county. These are the needs of our students."

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