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School board approves balanced budget

June 28, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

The Washington County Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to balance its fiscal year 2007 general fund budget, just one week after board members were split on the decision.

Board members voted to reduce the budget by about $1.8 million. Members Paul W. Bailey and Roxanne R. Ober were absent.

The reduction was needed because the board's budget was not fully funded by the Washington County Commissioners. The cuts were made from increases previously approved by the School Board. The largest increase was an additional 1 percent raise to employees' salaries, which would have totaled $1.1 million.

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Tuesday's cut did not include an increase negotiated earlier between the School Board and teachers.

Chris South, the chief financial officer, has said that the reductions will not affect the level of services provided during the budget year.

Board Vice President Jacqueline B. Fischer and members Roxanne R. Ober and Bernadette M. Wagner voted against cutting the budget during a meeting last week.

Fischer said she changed her vote after an explanation of the budget reductions during a closed session Tuesday morning. Schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen said additional information about matters discussed during a closed session would not be disclosed.

"We had received some clarification on the information that had been originally presented to us," Fischer said. "There were some things (I) had not fully understood initially."

Last week, Fischer and other board members asked questions regarding salary and overtime figures for staff. Part of her confusion, Fischer said, had to do with several upgraded positions and whether those upgrades were represented correctly in the general fund budget.

"I didn't fully understand it and wanted a clarification before I voted on it," she said.

Fischer and Board Member Wayne D. Ridenour said during Tuesday's meeting that it was unfortunate the board was unable to provide the 1 percent increase in salaries for employees.

Ridenour said he would prefer to find a way to balance the budget, while rewarding teachers with the additional salary increase.

"We didn't get the extra money," Fischer said. "So, unfortunately we will not be able to give that extra to our teachers. They've done so well this year."

Ridenour and Fischer both cited recently released Maryland School Assessment results as reasons for favoring increases in teacher salaries.

"I felt they really deserved it, but the commissioners decided not to fund it," Fischer said.

The 2007 fiscal year begins July 1.




How they voted ...



The Washington County Board of Education voted Tuesday to balance its fiscal year 2007 general fund budget.

Voting was as follows:

W. Edward Forrest Yes

Jacqueline B. Fischer Yes

Bernadette M. Wagner Yes

Russell F. Williams Yes

Wayne D. Ridenour Yes

Board members Paul W. Bailey and Roxanne R. Ober were absent.

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