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Proposed Board of Ed budget includes all-day kindergarten

February 26, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Full-day kindergarten, a football team, a second gifted and talented program and buses are part of the school system's proposed $150 million general fund budget.

The Washington County Board of Education discussed the proposed budget for the first time on Tuesday. The proposal is about $14 million, or 10 percent, higher than this year's $136 million general fund.

The school system expects about $7 million in new state funding to pay for half of the increase.

The Washington County Commissioners may be asked to come up with the other $7 million.

The county is providing about $78 million for the current fiscal year, according to the county's budget and finance office.

In the past, the county has not given the school board the full amount it requested.

"All of this counts for naught unless the county commissioners come up with the money," board member Russell Williams said.

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The school board expects to adopt a 2003-2004 budget during its March 11 business meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m.

A public hearing on the budget will be held March 13 at 7 p.m.

The school board is scheduled to present its budget to the commissioners on April 8.

Nearly half of the additional spending next year would be in two areas: A 20-percent increase in health insurance, or $2.4 million, and differentiated pay, $4.1 million.

More than $5 million in expenditures is tied to the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which calls for greater accountability in education.

One section has about $1.5 million for hiring and training "highly qualified teachers." Another $1 million would pay for textbooks, materials and equipment.

Full-day kindergarten would begin at six elementary schools: Bester, Fountaindale, Hancock, Lincolnshire, Salem Avenue and Winter Street. About $860,000 is budgeted.

Other elementary schools would start full-day kindergarten the following year, said JoEtta Palkovitz-Brown, director of elementary education.

The district hopes to expand the Fountaindale School for Arts and Excellence and to start a gifted and talented program at Emma K. Doub Elementary School.

An "Academic Initiatives" section in the budget would pay for language magnet programs at Boonsboro and Greenbrier elementary schools and Springfield and Northern middle schools; performing arts signature programs at Western Heights and Northern middle schools; and a Bester Academic Academy, in which students would wear uniforms.

About $12,000 is designated to start a Clear Spring High School football team. Parents have been raising money for the cause.

The cost of 13 replacement buses is estimated at $780,000.

School Board President Bernadette Wagner said the district cut about $14 million from an earlier budget draft.




What: Public hearing on Washington County Board of Education's 2003-2004 budget

When: Thursday, March 13, 7 p.m.

Where: School Board office, 820 Commonwealth Ave., Hagerstown

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