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School Board presents budget

April 03, 2002|BY TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

School officials say a fully-funded $132.8 million Washington County Board of Education budget for fiscal 2003 would create new programs and positions, attract highly qualified staff and bring more success to the county's nearly 20,000 students.

But it may not happen next school year.

The president of the Washington County Board of Commissioners said after a public hearing Tuesday night that meeting the school system's request will be a tough task.

"It's going to be difficult to fully fund the board based upon the limited revenue that we have," President Gregory I. Snook said.

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The School Board requested a $5.78 million increase over the county's current contribution of approximately $68.3 million.

The county is the main funding source of the School Board, followed by the state. The federal government contributes a small percentage.

The commissioners have said the county only has about $3.3 million in new revenue to distribute among all the groups that receive funding from the county.

As a result, they have proposed giving the School Board a $1.4 million increase, which is $4.38 million less than the board requested.

Of the more than 200 people who attended the public hearing at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater, 12 residents, teachers and students spoke in favor of a fully-funded school budget. None spoke against full funding.

The School Board said the increase would go toward:

n $3.9 million in salary increases

n $1.6 million in health insurance cost increases

n $592,000 for instructional improvements, including the hiring of four teachers for the Alternative High School.

n $532,415 for high school improvement, which includes the hiring of six high school teachers, providing SAT prep courses and offering remediation courses for the High School Assessments.

n $110,000 for building repairs, including $68,900 to pay the salary and benefits for a security specialist.

"The students of Washington County are the future of Washington County, Md., the U.S., and the world as a whole," said South High student Alaina Rowe. "If we as students do not get the best now, we may not be able to give the best to you later."

Rowe is also the student representative to the School Board.

Resident Don Allensworth, who spoke on behalf of himself and two of his neighbors, said a fully-funded budget would provide an equal educational opportunity for all students.

Claude Sasse, president of the Washington County Teachers Association, said full funding would help make teachers' salaries more competitive with surrounding counties and provide an incentive for highly qualified teachers to stay in Washington County.

He urged the commissioners not to be conservative with funding.

"That fiscal conservatism is not going to staff our schools," Sasse said. "Let's fund (the budget) as the county's top priority."

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