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Washington County schools seek 3.6% more money from county

Commissioners president favors full funding

Commissioners president favors full funding

April 09, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County Commissioners President John F. Barr said Tuesday that he supports funding the School Board's budget request in full.

The Board of Education's general fund budget for the upcoming fiscal year is about $226.9 million, and includes about $7.79 million in new expenses.

The board is asking County Commissioners for $87.28 million, which is about $3.04 million more than last year.

Barr said he was pleased to see that in a tight budget year, the school board's request for fiscal year 2009 was only a 3.6 percent increase over the last fiscal year.

"Personally, I will push for it," he said.

Washington County Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Chris South said that for the past three years the County Commissioners have provided only enough funds to maintain the same amount of spending per student each year. If the commissioners provided that level of funding this year, it would be an increase of about $500,000 -- $2.5 million less than has been requested.

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"They did a good job of limiting the increase, recognizing the limited funding available from the state and the county," said County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire.

He said the school board also recognized a difference between items they wanted and items they needed. Aleshire said the board members realized they did not need $1.2 million for new school buses, and instead decided to use that money toward a $50 million backlog of school maintenance projects.

"They recognized that you have to stretch the public dollar as far as it will go," he said.

Board Member Wayne D. Ridenour said the board presented a fair budget to the County Commissioners.

"I appreciate their support in funding the budget this year," he said.

In a list of questions he submitted to the board, Aleshire asked why services for elected board members had tripled in three years. The request for the fiscal year 2009 general fund budget is $851,624.

The written response to his question was that the increase is associated with "legal fees for several cases that could require outside counsel."

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said that many of the fees stem from personnel issues.

"I'm sure the County Commissioners are aware you can spend a lot of money on one personnel issue where there is a lot of litigation," she said.

Barr said he expects the County Commissioners to approve their $330 million budget for the county sometime within the next 30 days. He said education in Washington County makes up about 45 percent of the County Commissioners' budget.

"The economy is working against us, yet we have to maintain a quality school system," Barr said.

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