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School officials seek budget hike

January 31, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Due largely to increased funding from the state, Washington County Public Schools officials have recommended more than $25 million in increases over last year's operating budget.

The Board of Education and school system staff discussed the possible changes during a Tuesday morning work session. The board is not scheduled to adopt the budget until March.

Most increases in the recommended fiscal year 2008 general fund budget are related to employee compensation, retirement, health insurance, and other benefits for new and existing staff. More than $12 million has been allotted in that category over last year's budget. The specifics were not discussed during the work session and were marked for closed session talks.

The fiscal year 2007 budget was about $193 million and the fiscal year 2008 requested budget is about $218.9 million, according to school system documents.

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Chris South, the school system's chief financial officer, said state officials recently said they will give the system about $133.7 million, which is about $23 million more than in the fiscal 2007 general fund budget. South said the county's state money is calculated using a formula that includes at least 10 factors, including enrollment and the number of students in poverty.

Aside from compensation and benefits increases, enrollment growth and efforts to meet state and federal standards were two other areas that saw increases in recommended budget items for fiscal 2008.

A portion of requested increases stems from the opening of one new elementary school - Westfields - and two larger elementary schools - Pangborn and Maugansville - in 2008. Budget requests include technology integration packages for the three schools ($435,000), opening day library collection for Westfields ($250,000) and improving the library collection at the other two schools ($150,000), according to a budget document.

Additional increases are needed in other areas to accommodate new teachers, equipment and materials for those new schools.

Several support positions, including custodians, also were added.

"Obviously, as enrollment increases, so does our need for custodians and support positions in each of our schools," said board President Roxanne R. Ober.

Several items included in the staff recommendations are for safety and security needs in the county's schools. Officials included $25,000 for security fencing around portable classroom entrances, according to the budget document. The cost of five additional school resource officers is expected to be $250,000, and another $250,000 was requested for access control and cameras in schools.

Ober said the board will meet in at least one more work session and gather information in other ways about the recommendations.

"We need more information about some of these items," she said.




Budget timeline



The following is a timeline of events as the Washington County Board of Education works to adopt its fiscal year 2008 operating budget.

· The board will meet in at least one more work session and gather information in other ways about the recommendations.

· On Feb. 20, the board is scheduled to adopt a draft budget.

· A public hearing will be held and a budget advisory review committee will make a formal recommendation.

· On March 20, the board is scheduled to adopt the budget.

· The proposal then will be given to the Washington County Commissioners.

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