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Washington County school board eyes budget details ahead of hearing

March 06, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox, left, listens to a presentation on the proposed new school budget Tuesday by Chief Financial Officer Chris South.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

A new bus-washing system and an increase in the school system’s health-insurance premium got the most attention Tuesday from the Washington County Board of Education after members heard a presentation on the proposed $246 million budget for the next fiscal year.

The board members were pleased the health insurance premium was only going to increase 1 percent.
The increase is driven by medical inflation and the school system’s insurance claims, which were down the past 18 months, Chief Financial Officer Chris South said.

Employees also will experience a 1 percent increase in their share of the premiums, South said.

Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox thanked employees for using their health benefits responsibly. He cited employees for not going to the emergency room in cases where a primary doctor can help instead.

The proposed budget does not account for any teacher pension costs being passed from the state to the school system, but Wilcox has said school system officials know where they could find the money for pension costs at the expense of other programs.

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The proposal includes $7.4 million through increased revenue and budget cuts, with that money proposed for several other expenses, including employee raises. The raises, which the board approved in February, would cost almost $4.7 million.

The proposed budget also includes $1.5 million for new software to tie student and teacher performance to teacher compensation.

It calls for taking $175,000 in surplus funds to buy a bus-washing system that will reduce the cost of washing buses and improve vehicle longevity, school system officials said.

Deputy Superintendent Boyd Michael said officials looked at buying a bus-washing system that recycles water, but couldn’t justify the additional cost because it would have called for underground tanks, a filtering system and redoing the floor of the garage area.

Now it costs about $8,000 to wash the fleet of buses by hand — taking a person about three hours to wash one bus, whereas the new system would wash one bus in five to 10 minutes and the entire fleet for about $2,000, South said.

Board members will discuss the proposed budget at a 9 a.m. work session Tuesday at the Central Office on Commonwealth Avenue.

A public hearing on the board’s proposed budget, for the fiscal year that starts July 1, will be held at 7 p.m. on March 20 in the board auditorium at the Central Office. The board is scheduled to vote on the budget after the hearing.

The board Tuesday also voted 5-1 to approve a revised budget calendar, including the budget hearing date.

Board member Karen Harshman was absent.

Board member Donna Brightman opposed the revised calendar, citing concerns that the board was scheduled to vote on the proposed budget after the March 20 hearing.

If residents express concerns about the budget during the hearing, the board might want time to reflect on that and what the Budget Advocacy and Review Committee has to say before voting, she said.

Wilcox said Monday the board could decide to delay the vote if there is public concerns about the budget, but Brightman said delaying the vote would require at least four votes on the seven-member board.

The budget on TV

The March 6 Washington County Board of Education meeting on the fiscal 2013 proposed budget will air daily on Antietam Cable’s channel 99 starting as early as Thursday.

Air times are 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily with few exceptions. The full board meeting will be rebroadcast at 6 p.m. Thursday and 1 p.m. Saturday.

On Tuesday, the budget segment will only air at 8 a.m., but will be followed by live coverage of the school board’s 9 a.m. budget work session.

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