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BOE welcomes citizen input about budget

March 12, 2007|by PAUL BAILEY

Editor's note: Once a month, Washington County Board of Education members and school staff will use this space to write about school system issues. This month's column is written by Paul Bailey.




The Board of Education has been developing the fiscal year 2008 general fund operating budget over the past several months. This is a process that requires intense work and scrutiny in order to achieve the results we feel necessary to provide world-class learning for all students.

On Feb. 27, citizens had an opportunity to provide their input into the budget during a televised public hearing at the Board of Education building on Commonwealth Avenue. The next step will be to share the budget with the County Commissioners on March 27 at North Hagerstown High School, beginning at 7 p.m. After careful study and consideration, the commissioners are expected to determine a level of funding in early May.

The general fund operating budget is that portion of funding that deals with the day-to-day operation of the school system. Included in this budget are appropriations for such expenditures as personnel, supplies, utilities, materials and travel. Funding for this budget comes from the Washington County and state governments, with a small percentage from the federal government. In fiscal year 2007, the operating budget was funded 42.4 percent by the county and 57.1 percent by the state.

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Planning and developing a budget to meet the needs of more than 21,000 students, 500 support staff and 1,500 professional staff is one of the elected board's major responsibilities.

Early in the school year, teachers, principals and staff are busy prioritizing their requests for the operating budget. Guiding them in preparing their requests is the system's master plan. Each expenditure must support the goals and objectives in the master plan. This is illustrated in the following examples: increases related to enrollment growth for school year 2007-08, during which we expect to gain approximately 450 additional students; increases to meet state and federal standards such as the Bridge to Excellence Act and No Child Left Behind; increases related to utilities, transportation and facilities maintenance and improvements; increases for support services; and increases related to employee compensation and benefits. These increases total $25,728,644.

Notwithstanding the increased requests, Washington County Public Schools' cost per pupil is well below the state average of $9,661, and is next to lowest in the state, second only to Harford County. The budget proposed for fiscal year 2008 by the Board of Education will maintain average class size despite increasing enrollments. It will fund master plan priority needs, and it will allow the school system to meet external challenges, such as the increased cost of security and energy, head- on.

The board welcomes citizen involvement as it moves through the budget process. Citizens may view the budget on the school system's Web site at www.wcboe.k12.md.us/content/main_pubinfo.cfm and can send in comments via feedback@wcboe.k12.md.us. Your voice also can be heard March 27, when the County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the budget and when the budget is presented to the commissioners for their consideration.

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