GREENMOUNT — Concerned about understaffed classrooms, several teachers asked the Carroll school board last night not to cut any dollars earmarked for special education in the superintendent's proposed $112 million budget for 1991-1992.
The superintendent's plan, unveiled at a public hearing last week, calls for an additional $383,217 to hire 15 teachers, including one specialist in occupational therapy and five in learning problems for special education programs.
Those positions are among the 109 teachers, clerical workers and administrators that Superintendent R. Edward Shilling had initially proposed at a cost of $2.6 million.
But because of a downturn in the economy, the superintendent has recommended that the board slash from $7.7 million to $5.5 million a proposed boost in the county's share of the budget.
To make the cut, Shilling said additional positions not needed to accommodate growth in enrollment or the opening of Piney Ridge and Spring Garden elementary schools will probably be removed from the budget.
During the second of three public hearings onthe proposed $112.49 million spending plan, Bonnie Calhoun, a speechand language pathologist, said staffing levels for special educationprograms at Carroll's 31 schools have not kept up with the increase in enrollment.
"We feel we have to be advocates for our children because they can't speak for themselves," she said during the hearing at North Carroll Middle School. "We at least ask that you not cut what's in the budget for (special education). We desperately need all the funding we can get."
Responding to her concerns, Shilling said the first round of preliminary cuts from the additional staff has not included special education teachers. However, he noted that any cuts will not be final until the board's last public hearing Tuesday at West Middle School.
The board plans to vote on the budget at that meeting.
Initially, the superintendent's goals in the budget, which is 12 percent larger than the current fiscal budget, included hiring staff to accommodate increased enrollment; improving programs with a special focus on class size, special education and extended enrichment; and maintaining competitive salaries.
"The current economic conditions are extremely complicated," Shilling said.
The superintendent initially requested $63.2 million from the county, up from $55.4million for the current fiscal year. Just over half of the budget comes from the county, with the balance coming primarily from the state. The budget must be approved by the County Commissioners.
The commissioners expect -- at the most -- an additional $2 million to $3 million in revenue next fiscal year, which begins July 1. That money must be divided among the many county agencies and the school system.
The county has implemented a hiring freeze, travel curtailments, energy conservation measures and other cost-cutting schemes to trim a $3 million budget deficit. School officials have stressed that they want to help resolve the shortage.
"This year's budget is just so different from any other year," board Vice President Cheryl A. McFalls said. "It must have been very difficult to have a budget pulled together and then have to stand up there in front of everybody and say things will have to be changed."
Shilling has asked the board to use any additional dollars to hire teachers and other staff to accommodate an expected 700 more pupils. That number has been revised to about 500.
An additional 62 teachers, at a price of $1.6 million, are needed for the increased enrollment and the opening of the two elementary schools.