Pay raises, new buses in schools' budget

March 08, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

A 1 percent raise for all Washington County Public Schools employees is included in the budget the Board of Education will present to the County Commissioners next week.

According to changes approved Tuesday, the board will ask for $1,166,380 more than initially included in the draft budget. The total request of the county will be for more than $84.6 million - an increase of almost $4 million.

The board on Tuesday unanimously approved a $195.8 million proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2007. This year's operating budget is almost $176.4 million.

Board member Wayne D. Ridenour said people might take issue with particular line items in the budget, but he is "very satisfied" with the document overall.


"You may look at it and say, 'Why are you spending this here?' but the bottom line is this is a very legitimate budget," Ridenour said.

The board's spending increases include purchasing 14 buses, establishing magnet programs at Boonsboro and Williamsport elementary schools, and hiring more than 40 new teachers and teachers' assistants and nine new bus drivers.

According to the draft budget, which the board approved Jan. 31, the board included a request for money to give employees a 0.8 percent raise. In the document it approved Tuesday, the board upped the increase to 1 percent.

"This is aimed at bringing our salaries more in line with the competition both within and without the educational arena," said Director of Budget and Finance Chris South.

A contract approved by the board and Washington County Teachers Association in June gave teachers with fewer than 20 years of service step increases and 3 percent raises, while veteran teachers got $4,000 raises.

The 1 percent raises are on top of negotiated raises, South said.

Other changes made to the draft budget include the board's decision to set aside $500,000 for a retirement savings program for employees and $300,000 toward initiatives to improve student behavior.

Overall, the budget calls for the board to spend $2.5 million over this year to deal with enrollment growth and $1.7 million to pay for increases in the costs of utilities. Increases in employee compensation and benefits would total more than $8.8 million, according to the proposed budget.

Board President W. Edward Forrest said the raises will help keep the county's salaries competitive.

"Not only that, it is a gesture on behalf of the board, showing that we appreciate a job well-done," he said.

Proposed increases

The Washington County Board of Education's proposed operating fiscal year 2007 operating budget includes spending increases of more than $19 million.

The proposed increases include:

  • Magnet programs at Boonsboro and Williamsport elementary schools

  • Fourteen buses

  • Two project managers to manage remodeling and building schools

  • More than $8.8 million toward employee compensation and benefits

  • One full-time and four part-time custodians

  • More than 40 new teachers and teachers' assistants

  • $300,000 for a behavior-enhancement program

  • $1.7 million toward utility cost increases
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