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School seek more money from county

February 15, 2002

School seek more money from county



By TARA REILLY
tarar@herald-mail.com


The Washington County Board of Education decided Tuesday morning to seek more money from the county than the amount initially proposed in the fiscal year 2003 operating budget, but school board members say it still isn't enough to cover all the school system's needs.

The board initially asked the Washington County Commissioners for an increase of $5.78 million over the county's contribution this fiscal year of about $70 million. Now the School Board wants $758,000 more, bringing the amount of new funds to $6.5 million.

The county is the main funding source for the School Board, followed by the state. The federal government contributes a small percentage to the board's budget.

Board members said some of the $758,000 is needed because of increased costs that the school system has no choice but to pay, including for special education and workers compensation premiums.

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"They are things that are out of our control," school board Vice President Bernadette Wagner said.

Some of those costs include:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> $168,000 projected increase in workers' compensation premiums

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> $200,000 increase for special education placements

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> $172,000 increase in health insurance premiums

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> $9,400 to fund a 50 percent increase in school administrators mileage expenses.

School Board member Mary Wilfong said the new money request isn't enough to fund the school system's other educational needs, such as hiring more guidance counselors, computer technicians and clerical staff for some of the schools' libraries.

Washington County elementary schools average one guidance counselor for every 547 students, the middle schools average one counselor for every 353 students and the high schools average one for every 326 students.

Seven of the elementary schools have full-time counselors and 18 have counselors on site a few days a week, school officials have said.

"We can agree that our schools are understaffed for the needs of our students," School Board member Roxanne Ober said.

School Board member J. Herbert Hardin said the County Commissioners want to know when the board plans to hire more guidance counselors to meet the elementary shortage.

"We probably should have asked for a few to see if they are willing to compensate that," Hardin said. "If they're not, they can't keep saying to us why didn't you put it in the budget."

The School Board plans to adopt the proposed budget on Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. at the board's central office.

The public may comment on the budget at a public hearing March 6 at 7 p.m. The School Board may make changes to the proposed budget up until it submits it to the commissioners later in the spring.

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