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School board approves budget proposal

March 17, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

A $158.3 million school budget proposal approved Tuesday night is now headed to the Washington County Commissioners, who will decide whether to fully fund it.

The Washington County Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved a proposed fiscal 2005 general fund operating budget which is $13.5 million, or 9.3 percent, above the current budget.

Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said 90 percent of the budget goes to salaries and benefits.

The School Board is asking the County Commissioners to contribute $4.7 million of the $13.5 million increase. The total county funding in the fiscal 2005 budget would be $78.7 million if the County Commissioners approve it as it is.

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The County Commissioners will hold a hearing on the school budget on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Kepler Theater at Hagerstown Community College.

A public hearing on the overall county budget is scheduled for May 4. The county budget could be approved the same month.

Fiscal year 2005 starts July 1, 2004.

In the school budget proposal, the largest piece of the $13.5 million in additional spending would be $4.7 million for increasing salaries and health care costs, Chief Operating Officer William Blum said during an interview Tuesday afternoon.

The school system doesn't know the exact amount of the salary increases because it's still negotiating contracts with its three bargaining units, Budget and Finance Director Chris South said during the same interview.

Revenue estimates also could change because $8.8 million in state funding for the rest of the $13.5 million increase probably won't be final until the end of the Maryland General Assembly's session next month, Blum said.

During a short discussion about the budget at Tuesday night's School Board meeting, South said 11 new buses will be purchased, instead of nine, the number included in an earlier draft.

By law, school systems must replace buses at least every 12 years.

Other programs proposed in the budget include a Spanish program at Greenbrier Elementary School, four mentor resource teachers to work with new teachers, new computers, two new underground heating oil tanks and software to allow parents to access certain school records from home.

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