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School board votes to adopt draft of budget

February 18, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously voted to adopt a draft of a $158.3 million budget for the next fiscal year so that it can be taken to a public hearing on Feb. 24.

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 board was scheduled to adopt the budget at its Feb. 3 meeting, but members decided by consensus to delay approval.

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The board has the prerogative to change the budget following a Feb. 24 public hearing.

School board member Roxanne Ober said the budget may later be amended to increase the number of buses funded for replacement from nine to 14. But the board members said they want the Finance Committee to examine the possible change prior to any budget changes.

The budget asks the Washington County Commissioners for $78.7 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.

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 fiscal year, Blum said.

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 has said.

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

The timeline was pushed back by two weeks after a board meeting was canceled due to a snowstorm.

At the Feb. 3 meeting, 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 work session that day. Adjustments were made elsewhere in the budget to address the change, spokeswoman Carol Mowen said.

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

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

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