Commissioners, School Board Get Down To Business

Education Budget Seeks Much More In This Time Of Less

March 27, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

The school board will find out how bare the county's cupboard is when members meet with the commissioners tomorrow to review their proposed $110.3 million spending plan for fiscal 1992.

Even though county officials may have some ideas on how the school plan should be trimmed, Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said he expected the meeting to be "a matter of a budget presentation and the commissioners wantingto know our priorities."

Priorities in the proposed $110,270,592 budget, given school board approval last month, include maintaining existing programs and hiring additional teachers to accommodate 525 more pupils and to staff the opening of Piney Ridge and Spring Garden elementary schools.

Butlike other counties across the state, Carroll is facing revenue shortfalls, and the commissioners have said a proposed $5.5 million increase in county dollars -- which would bring Carroll's share of the school budget to $61 million -- may be difficult to obtain.

"The funding situation is certainly difficult here," said Steven D. Powell, county director of management and budget.

While county agencies havebeen struggling to trim their fiscal 1992 budgets to 2 percent belowcurrent spending, the school board has proposed a 10 percent spending increase.

Board members and educators have defended the increase, saying the money is needed to maintain existing programs and to hire about 72 teachers and other personnel next year.

"My feeling is that we need to hire additional teachers for new schools that will open next year," Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said. "That willbe my priority at this time, as opposed to additional funding for anything else."

There are not likely to be drastic cuts in county funding because a state regulation requires local jurisdictions to maintain at least the same level of spending per pupil as the current year, which ends June 30.

In Carroll, that means the county would have to maintain its $55 million share of the current budget. If the school system receives an additional $3.2 million in state dollars, as hoped, the county would have to contribute another $1.3 million, said William H. Hyde, assistant superintendent of administration.

That amount nearly would cover the money school officials have earmarked -- about $1.7 million -- to hire the additional staff.

Although recognizing county spending restraints, board Vice President Cheryl A. McFalls said she hopes cuts will not be made to the proposed spending plan.

"I realize it could be a possibility, but I'm not looking forward to that," McFalls said. "We don't really have a feel for what may be cut. My concern is that we are opening two new elementary schools."

School officials and board members have said they are willingto work with the commissioners to resolve any budget shortfalls.

A piece of the budget pie that has not been resolved is salaries for school workers. School officials, though, realizing they could be forced to make some cuts to the proposed budget, have mentioned salary increases as an area that could be trimmed.

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