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Schools balance, approve budget

June 05, 2002|by DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

dank@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education solved its $1.3 million budget shortfall on Tuesday by approving a plan that relies on increased grant funding, eliminates another 12 staff positions and cuts spending in several areas.

The changes left the School Board with a balanced general fund budget of about $132.8 million, which was unanimously approved by the board members during their Tuesday night meeting.

The staff cuts will be made by combining positions, eliminating vacant positions and moving some employees into positions others have left, not through layoffs, Interim Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said. The total number of positions cut for the fiscal year beginning July 1 will be 22, Morgan said.

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"Because we have enough people retiring or resigning from the system, we are able to fill those positions with people whose jobs have been eliminated in next year's budget," Morgan said.

The board also decided not to hire a new security specialist, which saves $68,900.

Other cuts include reducing out-of-county travel expenses by $50,000, which leaves $50,000 in the budget for travel.

New computers for elementary schools will not be purchased, and computers in secondary schools will be replaced on a case-by-case basis, which will save $126,000.

Also, school system employees will not work Fridays during the summer. The four-day work week is expected to reduce the use of air conditioners, which will save $50,000 in electricity.

Administrators and supervisors will not receive cost-of-living raises next year, and those administrators and supervisors paid more than $70,000 a year will receive partial step raises, Schools Director of Human Resources Donald Francis said. Those changes cut about $32,000 from the budget, he said.

About $520,000 of the $1.3 million shortfall is being covered by expected increases in state and federal grants.

The School Board has said the additional budget changes were needed because it did not receive the full $5.78 million funding increase it sought from the Washington County Board of Commissioners. The county is expected to give $70.3 million to the school system, a $2 million increase over this year. The School Board is also expecting an additional $2.4 million from the state next fiscal year.

Morgan said the cuts, which she proposed to the School Board, will not affect students or instruction.

Board member Paul Bailey commended Morgan and the school system staff for their work on budget.

"Great job," he said.

Before the School Board voted on the budget, a teacher and four students from the Washington County Technical High School asked the board to reconsider the plan to move that school's principal and assistant principal to other positions.

Francis said the moves are among about 30 planned for the next school year.

He said current Technical High School Principal Arnold Hammann will become the supervisor of career technology education.

Charles Swisher Jr., the assistant principal at the technical school, will become the assistant principal at Williamsport High School, he said.

Replacing Hammann and Swisher at the technical school will be a supervisor from the board's central office and Smithsburg High School Principal Jeffrey Stouffer, who will become principal of the technical school, he said.

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