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Board of Education requesting $85.2 million from Commissioners

March 28, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - The Washington County Board of Education asked the County Commissioners on Tuesday for about $85.2 million to fund a portion of its operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The fiscal year 2008 operating budget is about $220 million, and includes $26.9 million in increases over last fiscal year's budget. The bulk of those increases will come from state funds, and the board is asking for $3.3 million more from the county than it did last year, Chief Financial Officer Chris South said.

Most of those increases were related to facilities maintenance and improvement ($5.5 million); employee compensation, retirement, health insurance and other benefits for new and existing staff ($12.5 million) and meeting state and federal standards ($3.4 million).

The board voted to approve the proposed budget during a March 20 business meeting.

About 100 people that included mostly teachers and administrators attended the presentation at North Hagerstown High School.

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County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said he had questions about many of the line items included in the proposed budget and needed more explanation of what the expenses are and why they are needed.

"I'm constantly having to weigh on my mind the impact on the taxpayer who lives in this community," he said.

He said some of the requested items lacked explanation. Some of the more than 50 items he questioned included the need for four school-based clerical positions ($100,260); support school enrichment activities/high school interscholastic athletics ($4,490); one administrative intern ($50,098); one special education teacher to address enrollment increases in birth to 5 population ($55,107); and one elementary business manager ($66,235).

Eighty-three new full-time equivalent positions are funded in the proposed budget, most as a result of enrollment growth, South said. Three of those, South said, are administrative positions.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said he expects that the county's revenue will not be as high next year, and commissioners were looking to fund more one-time expenditures rather than building expenses into the base budget.

"So, we've asked a lot of you, but we feel we have delivered," school system Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said. "I think what needs to be pointed out here is that the lion's share of that money is coming from the state. So, Commissioner Aleshire, when you talk about the increase in our funding, it's not coming from the commissioners. It's not local ... it's come from the state."

Many of those who spoke after the presentation were in favor of commissioners funding the board's proposed operating budget at 100 percent, with one calling for a 101 percent commitment.

"I don't want to sacrifice any money from any part of the budget," said Steve Hummel, a member of the board's budget advocacy committee. "I certainly hope we can work with you ...."

Donna Newcomer, principal of Fountaindale Elementary School, said the proposed budget should be fully funded to pay for new programs, additional staffing and to invest in the children of Washington County.

Aleshire said commissioners are in the midst of their budget review process and will likely hold a public hearing in May before finalizing the budget by June 30. The commissioners budget will include its funding for Washington County Public Schools.




Budget highlights



· Four kindergarten teachers - $200,390

· Five school resource officers - $250,000

· One director of middle schools - $101,900

· One director of student services - $101,900

· Ceiling mounted LCD projectors for classrooms - $45,000

· Utilities increase due to market conditions (electricity) - $857,010

· Transportation hub for high school magnet programs access - $150,000

· Athletic projects at various sites - $485,000

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