Washington Co. School Board OKs budget

March 17, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Board of Education voted 5-2 Tuesday to approve a $232.7 million operating budget proposal for the next fiscal year.

The budget now goes to the Washington County Commissioners to consider as part of the overall county funding plan for fiscal year 2010.

As approved, the proposal calls for 3.1 percent higher spending than the $225.6 million budget for the current fiscal year.

However, Chris South, the school system's chief financial officer, has said he expects the commissioners to separately fund $1.4 million for new buses. Excluding the bus money, proposed FY 2010 spending is 2.1 percent more, South has said.

Board members Donna Brightman and William H. Staley voted against the proposed budget.

Brightman said she supports much of the budget, but not the process. The public didn't get enough of a chance to see and comment on the budget earlier, she said.


Board member W. Edward Forrest disagreed. He said the public was involved early on, helping with a master plan that guided how the budget was crafted.

During a public hearing last week, three people from the public spoke about the budget. A fourth person also spoke, but only to ask about a published letter to the editor.

On Tuesday, the only speaker during a public comment period was David Manganaro, whose daughter attends Greenbrier Elementary School.

Manganaro praised the local education system and left a box of Girl Scout cookies as a gift for the board, but said he's concerned how spending has increased over the years.

He said the budget increase since 1999 -- from $109 million to $233 million, or 114 percent -- is much greater than student enrollment growth.

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan replied that higher spending is connected to Washington County getting a fairer share after many years of inadequate state funding.

In about four years, Washington County received close to $70 million from the state, she said, and most of the money has funded instruction.

Board member Justin M. Hartings said 3 percent might seem like a high increase, but it's for educational programs he's not willing to sacrifice.

Staley didn't explain his dissent during the meeting. Reached by phone afterward, he said Manganaro's comments made him think more about budget cuts that weren't outlined.

"I just would have liked to have seen a little more detail," he said.

Morgan has said five principles influenced the budget proposal, including preserving jobs, honoring labor agreements and maintaining the current average class size.

The budget includes 17 new full-time-equivalent jobs, several of them connected to the new Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.

There were no layoffs or furloughs.

By a 5-2 vote Tuesday, the Washington County Board of Education approved a proposed $232.7 million operating budget for fiscal year 2010.

oPaul W. Bailey -- yes

oDonna Brightman -- no

oRuth Anne Callaham -- yes

oW. Edward Forrest -- yes

oJustin M. Hartings -- yes

oWayne D. Ridenour -- yes

oWilliam H. Staley -- no

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