School Board delays budget for changes

February 04, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

Washington County Board of Education members on Tuesday agreed by consensus to delay approving a draft of a proposed $158.3 million budget for the next fiscal year to allow time for changes to be made.

The proposed budget for the 2004-05 fiscal year that starts July 1 calls for increased spending of about $13.5 million over the $144.8 million budget for the current fiscal year, according to budget documents.

The budget asks the Washington County Commissioners for $78.3 million, a $4.7 million increase over the approximately $74 million provided by the county for the current fiscal year, Chief Operating Officer William Blum said.


"It is a very modest request," Blum said. "It is extremely reasonable."

The board received $71 million for the 2002-03 fiscal year.

The budget projects the School Board will receive $8.8 million more from the state of Maryland than it received for the current year, Blum said.

Under Gov. Robert Ehrlich's recommendation, the board would receive less than $8 million more, but Blum called that amount "speculative."

If the School Board does not get as much money as anticipated from the state, it "fully expects" the County Commissioners to bridge that gap, Blum said.

The final, summary page of a visual presentation to the School Board during a work session said, "State funding is tenuous and politically sensitive. Full local funding is critical."

While the School Board took no action on the proposed budget Tuesday, it decided to amend its budget calendar, which is a schedule that spells out the dates of public hearings and meetings.

Under the initial calendar the board was to adopt the draft of the budget Tuesday so it could go to a Feb. 10 public hearing.

The timeline has been pushed back by two weeks, with the board now scheduled to approve the budget at its Feb. 17 meeting and hold a public hearing on the draft budget on Feb. 24.

The board was scheduled to meet last week to discuss the budget but that meeting was canceled due to a snowstorm. The board met Tuesday, under a revised agenda, despite icy weather that closed schools.

Board members asked staff to consider including in the budget four positions - at a cost of about $300,000 - that were not in the draft presented to them at a Tuesday morning work session.

The proposed new positions - two mentor teachers and two assistant secondary school principals - were discussed at a Jan. 13 budget retreat.

The county funding increase, if approved, would help pay for a $1 million increase in health insurance costs, Blum said.

The county money, if provided, also would help pay $4.3 million in salary increases, he said.

Last year the School Board voted to increase the starting salary of teachers to $35,000, an increase of $2,635 from the previous year. Board members have said that in the next fiscal year they want to increase the salaries for teachers who have been on the job for a longer period of time.

The Washington County Public Schools system ranks sixth in the state for beginning teacher salaries but 23rd in the state for salaries of teachers with master's degrees and 10 years of experience, Blum said in his presentation.

Budget details

The proposed Washington County Board of Education budget for the 2004-05 fiscal year would:

  • Increase funding for dropout prevention programs.

  • Address projected enrollment increases in secondary education.

  • Pay for a string music program at E. Russell Hicks Middle School.

  • Fund a position for an autism teacher/specialist.

  • Provide additional money for staff development.

  • Pay for replacing some personal computers.

  • Pay for repairing "inadequate fire alarm systems."

Source: Washington County Board of Education draft budget.

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