The board last week approved its fiscal year 2006 operating budget, which includes anticipated state increases of $15.8 million and surplus revenues of $696,218.
Commissioners' President Gregory I. Snook said during the meeting that the commissioners must hear 20 to 25 other proposed budgets before they can finalize the county's spending plans for fiscal year 2006, which begins July 1. The commissioners tentatively plan to meet May 10 to set the budgets, he said.
'Maintenance of effort'
During a presentation about the school system's budget, Schools Chief Operating Officer William Blum said the board's request of the county represents only "maintenance of effort" money, a state-mandated amount based on this year's per-pupil funding, and the cost of 23 new buses, which are needed to replace aging vehicles and to accommodate growing enrollment.
He said the buses represent $1.6 million of the request; the remaining $2.2 million is "maintenance of effort" needed to support an anticipated growth of enrollment by 547 students next year.
The budget's biggest proposed appropriated increases include $11.3 million for increases related to employee pay and benefits and $3.3 million for costs related to meeting state and federal standards. That category comprises such measures as hiring additional teachers, expanding intervention programs and purchasing additional textbooks and supplies.
The budget would add more than 96.5 new positions.
According to Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan, the "lion's share" of new positions relate to support for students and teachers. She has said about 80 percent of the new positions are instructional, and she considers four of the new positions to be administrative. They include a facility planner, an assistant principal for Hancock Middle-Senior High School, a special-education supervisor and a director of information systems and instructional technology.
While Shumaker and several parents praised such board proposals as creating an International Baccalaureate program, enhancing services for special-education students and addressing a backlog of maintenance projects, some said they were dissatisfied with the spending plans.
"Who comes to the conclusion that bleachers are a priority over adequate lighting inside a high school?" asked Kim Austin, one of two parents who addressed the board with concerns about conditions at Boonsboro High School.
Morgan said later the school system is planning to look at Boonsboro's lighting situation. The new budget, she said, includes "something for everyone."
The board in November asked the commissioners for $24.6 million for construction projects as part of its separate capital improvement program budget. The county's tentative $59.6 million capital budget includes $15.8 million for the schools for building projects next year.
Snook said after the operating budget meeting that school funding makes up about 65 percent of the county's budget.
Budget at a glance
The school system's proposed fiscal-year 2006 budget, which would go into effect July 1, totals $178 million, an increase of $20.3 million over this year. The increases include the cost of adding 96.5 new positions and 23 new buses. Changes and additions include:
· $495,965 for 11 new elementary teachers to accommodate larger anticipated incoming classes in grades 1-5.
· $641,248 for 16 new high school teachers to accommodate larger anticipated incoming classes.
· $612,000 for nine new buses to deal with enrollment growth.
· $330,644 for six special-education content teachers.
· $315,614 for seven new kindergarten teachers to help implement a full-day program.
· $1.1 million to pay for increases in the cost of heating oil, electricity, propane and natural gas.
· $350,000 to expand high school magnet programs.
· $748,000 to replace 11 aging buses.