Advisory Panel Peeved By Schools' Isis Budget Switch

February 22, 1991|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

Mark Baumgardner, a member of an advisory panel on county capital projects, was ready to ask some tough questions about the school system's $50 million ISIS computer program yesterday.

But when school officials handed their proposed $36.4 million 1992 capital budget to the Planning Advisory Board, ISIS was nowhere to be found.

ISIS (Integrated School Information System) is now in the school system's operating budget, School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton saidafter the meeting. With ISIS' administrative component almost complete, virtually all money spent on ISIS from now on will payfor the instructional part of the program, he said.

As part of regular classroom activity, ISIS belongs in the operating budget, not with long-term capital projects, Lorton said.

But Baumgardner and other Planning Advisory members -- who were not told why ISIS is no longer part ofthe capital budget -- suspect school officials moved the system fromits capital program so it would not be scrutinized by the board, which was critical of it last year.

"I think what they are trying to do is circumvent this particular board," Baumgardner said. "I'm livid."

The board agreed to send County Executive Robert R. Neall a letter asking that ISIS be put back inthe capital program.

Board members accused school officials of putting administrative personnel before students where ISIS is concerned. "The perception that the kids come last and the administration comes first is one of the problems you've got," Baumgardner said.

Lorton, however, said the county told him to use last year's $2.7 million to complete the administrative component before it started the much larger, more expensive instructional segment.

If completed as planned, ISIS would give students in each of Anne Arundel's 120 schools access to a 32-computer laboratory.The administration portion of the program handles personnel and finance matters.

The 33 school projects presented to the board yesterday would cost the county $26.4 million, with the balance coming from state and federal sources. Historically, the county has paid for about one-fourth of the school system's requests, Lorton said.

Six projects involving health and safety issues top the school system's fiscal 1992 capital program:

* $1 million for replacement and reinsulation of boilers in 10 schools. Asbestos, a carcinogen once used as aninsulator, must be removed from the boilers.

* $500,000 for sprinkler and ventilation systems and other health-related projects.

* $630,000 for asbestos abatement and litigation.

* $300,000 to comply with the federal Asbestos Hazardous Emergency Response Act.

* $750,000 to refurbish underground storage tanks.

* $1.2 million formajor roof replacements.

Environmental mandates "are consuming a larger and larger proportion of both our operating and capital budgets," Assistant Superintendent Ron Beckett said. "Not only are the lawsgetting tougher, but the community at large is getting more aware."

The school system's other major requests include $4.8 million toward construction of North County High School; $5.6 million for small-scale building renovations; $2.9 million for renovations and an addition to the Center for Applied Technology-South in Edgewater; and $1 million for sound abatement and air conditioning.

All branches of county government have been presenting their capital requests to the Planning Advisory Board during the last month. The board's recommendations must be presented to Neall by March 25.

The executive will refine and amend the capital program and return it to the board, which will review it once more before sending

it to the County Council on May 1.

Greg Nourse, assistant county budget officer, said capital requests for fiscal 1992 -- which begins July 1 -- probably total $160 to $180 million. The capital budget this fiscal year was $116 million.

The county is allowed to float about $50 million in bonds annually to finance capital projects. Other sources include impact fees, state and federal grants and county pay-as-you-go money -- money from the operating budget used for capital projects.

Nourse said he "can't imagine" that there will be more than $120 million available for capital projects next year.

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