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Proposed school budget includes no layoffs

March 03, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

For fiscal year 2010, Washington County Public Schools has proposed a $232.7 million operating budget with no program cuts and no layoffs, furloughs or attempts to change employee contracts.

Even in a tough economy, Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said, it would be "a serious breach of trust" for the school system to try to renegotiate labor agreements.

The spending plan is 3.1 percent higher than this year's $225.6 million budget.

However, the budget proposal currently includes $1.4 million to buy new school buses -- an expense the Washington County Commissioners are likely to remove from the operating budget and fund separately, said Chris South, the school system's chief financial officer.

Excluding the bus purchases, the proposed spending increase for fiscal year 2010 is 2.1 percent, South said.

The school board adopted a final draft of the budget on Tuesday.

A public hearing will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. The board is scheduled to adopt a final proposal for the county commissioners the following week.

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Morgan said Washington County is one of the few school systems in Maryland not making program or staff cuts in the current economic climate.

During a presentation at Tuesday's school board meeting, she noted that the district is the second-largest employer in the county. The Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission's 2008 Business & Industry Directory listed the district as having more than 2,900 employees.

"If we falter, other people falter," she said.

South said the school system found about $5.3 million in savings to prevent the need for higher spending increases.

Morgan said cuts are scattered and won't be harmful.

One example is putting off an annual computer replacement that has been done for the last several years. The same freeze would apply to the replacement of textbooks.

Other cuts would be to travel, conferences and consultants, Morgan said.

The budget plan calls for 17 new full-time-equivalent positions, including five teachers, a secretary, two custodians, a half-time guidance counselor and a half-time media specialist for the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, which is scheduled to open in August.

The school system will ask the county commissioners for $3.7 million, or 4.3 percent, more than the county gave the district in the current fiscal year.

That includes $1.4 million for 14 buses, which South said the commissioners probably would address as a separate item.

Of the remaining $2.3 million in the requested increase, the commissioners are required to give $219,000 to meet a per-pupil spending formula, South said.

The other $2.1 million would cover the cost of benefits promised to retirees.

Under the budget proposal, the school system would use $354,000 from its fund balance. South said that would leave about $7 million.

Proposed school budget - highlights



Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said five principles guided the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year:

o Preserve jobs

o Honor labor agreements

o Maintain the current average class size

o Avoid cuts that impact the classroom and support to students

o Continue to move the school system forward toward a world-class vision

Some highlights of the proposed $232.7 million operating budget for fiscal year 2010:

o No layoffs or furloughs

o Spending increase of 3.1 percent if purchase of 14 new buses is included, 2.1 percent without buses, which might be funded separately

o Seventeen new full-time-equivalent positions, including five teachers, two custodians, a half-time guidance counselor and a half-time media specialist for the new Barbara Ingram School for the Arts

o $89,000 in utility costs for the Barbara Ingram school

o A technician to oversee fingerprints, criminal investigations and background checks of volunteers

o $5.3 million in savings

If You Go



What: Presentation and public hearing on Washington County Public Schools' proposed fiscal year 2010 operating budget

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: District office auditorium, 820 Commonwealth Ave., Hagerstown

The district is expected to post copies of the draft budget online and make them available at the district office and local schools.

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