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More funding expected for Board of Education

May 14, 2001

More funding expected for Board of Education



By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A Washington County Commissioner said Sunday he expects the Board of Education will receive another $400,000 to $500,000 toward its $128 million operating budget for the year beginning July 1.

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"It's pretty comfortable that education will be increased," said Paul Swartz, vice president of the Board of County Commissioners. "I think (the increase) will bring it very, very close to meeting their needs."

The Board of Education had asked for a $6.9 million increase in local funds over the county's current year allocation of $63 million. The state funds the remainder of the school system's budget.

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The Commissioners had originally proposed funding approximately $5.3 million of the request - $1.6 million less than what the board had asked for.

School Board members, who argued for full funding of their budget request, have said anything less would put the school system in a bind. The board and members of the school system staff said the cut would mean less money for such priorities as salaries, health insurance coverage and private placements.

Board members said they welcome any talk of additional funding.

"Of course it's good news," said board member Doris Nipps. "That would take care of some of the issues with salary for employees and some of the other priorities. That would really help us out."

Nipps said she spoke with two of the commissioners after a budget hearing last week, and they indicated the education budget would be receiving some sort of increase.

"That's two votes, we just need one more," she said.

There are five County Commissioners.

School Board member Edward Forrest said he didn't know the commissioners were considering an increase.

"That's good news if that's the case," Forrest said.

He said the Board of Education will still be hard-pressed to come up with the other $1.1 million in its budget request, but added that that a $500,000 increase would give the board more breathing room to balance its budget.

"It makes things a little easier for us."

Board of Education member Paul Bailey suggested at the hearing last week that commissioners use county revenue surpluses to fully fund the education budget. Bailey said the county has been underestimating its surpluses for the past five years.

Bailey said that in 1996 the county had a surplus of about $3 million, in 1997 about $10 million, in 1998 about $8 million, in 1999 about $6 million and in 2000 about $5.2 million.

Swartz said the commissioners will look into whether the surpluses claimed by Bailey are accurate. He also said the commissioners understand the benefits of a sound education budget.

"We are working together, and we realize that education is the priority," Swartz said. "You're only going to be as strong as your education system. Everyone prospers from education."

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