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County schools to get less money from state

May 15, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

Washington County can expect less state money for schools in the future.

State legislators told the county's Board of Education on Tuesday that extra funds they have received for the past several years cannot be sustained.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said county officials will need to supplement that money.

"The county has enjoyed record (tax collections)," he said. "I'd like to see the county step it up a little bit as far as its commitment to education."

County Commission President John F. Barr said the commissioners are aware that more money will be needed for schools. He said the commissioners are being "very frugal" with this fiscal year's budget for education in anticipation that they will need to allocate more for the county's schools soon.

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Board President Roxanne R. Ober said the delegation and the board did not meet before this year's legislative session in Annapolis. The sides have committed to meeting before and after the upcoming session, and have planned another meeting in the fall, she said.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany; Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington; Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington; and Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, were absent from the joint meeting. Board Member Bernadette Wagner also was absent.

Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr., R-Frederick/Washington, said the level of Thornton funding the county has received for education cannot be sustained once that fund is gone due to the budget deficit the state is facing.

"There's no way the governor can commit to the same level of Thornton money with the deficit," he said. "I think if we're conjecturing about funding, better anticipate less money."

Fiscal year 2008 will be the last year of the five-year phase-in of Thornton funding, which increased state funding for public schools in Maryland.

Ober said that the additional funds were used to update most textbooks in Washington County Public Schools, many of which were about 15 years old.

Shank said that funding was not meant to be a "crutch" for the county to provide less money for education.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said that if a special session is called this year and there is a substantial increase in taxes, including a ruling on slots, education could see some additional money.

Board members said they are facing a number of unfunded mandates from the state, including providing all-day kindergarten programs.

"Thornton (funding) has allowed us to do the things that we're being required to do," Board Vice President Wayne D. Ridenour said. "If we're going to be asked to do more and more and more, then we need some level of funding to do these things."

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