County Executive Robert R. Neall appears willing to meet school officials halfway in his 1992 budget proposal, which calls for an overall3.5 percent increase in school spending levels, 35 new teaching positions and continued support for ISIS, the system-wide computer project.
During his budget message yesterday, Neall unveiled a $341.7 million spending plan for the Board of Education, an $11 million increase over this year's budget. The figure represents 55.4 percent of thecounty's proposed operating budget.
The board had requested $353 million.
After months of meetingsand seeming ill will between the county and school system, the budget is a major step toward compromise and healing old wounds.
"I would like to express my appreciation to the Board of Education and the Community College," Neall said during his budget briefing. "They tookthe steps to make this budget possible."
The board's request for 97 new teaching positions, including 33 for special education, was cut to 25 for general education and 10 for special education. The school system expects an additional 1,500 students next year. Nineteen vacant positions have been eliminated, including 10 custodians and othernon-teaching positions that had not been filled because of the county-wide hiring freeze this year.
"It's halfway," board Budget Officer Jack White said. "We asked for 97 and he is funding 35 of them. We're probably one of the winners in this budget, but there are still some things that were not funded that we feel are important. We need the additional positions for the projected enrollment growth."
Neall proposed $1 million for ISIS, the school system's often-maligned attempt to create a central computer network to service all schools, aswell as the board's Riva Road headquarters. The board had askedfor $3.6 million.
"The ISIS program is funded for maintenance, but it'sreally not progress," White said. "We really want to expand the program."
Few new programs are included in the lean budget. Board members, alerted early by the administration of the need for a no-frills spending plan, already had trimmed School Superintendent Larry Lorton's proposed budget considerably to get to $353.2 million.
Money toexpand the Teen Parent program to Annapolis High and continue the school-based Project Independence program, designed to help children ofwelfare recipients break the cycle of poverty, did not survive the final board budget -- even though parents testified strongly on their behalf.
With the school system having dealt with an $8 million budget deficit this school year, Neall's plan for keeping costs downincludes incorporating the school system into the county's self-insurancepool for general liability and worker's compensation insurance.
In the county's capital budget, $16.8 million was included to pay for:
* Renovation and expansion of the Center for Applied Technology South in Edgewater. The budget for the project is $3 million.
* Thesecond phase of the conversion of the old Lindale Junior High Schoolto North County High ($2.9 million).
* Sound-proofing and air-conditioning at Glen Burnie Park and Oakwood elementary schools ($3.9 million).
* Regularly scheduled school renovations totaling $3.3 million. The renovations will replace roofs, air-conditioning systems and improved handicapped access.
Anne Arundel Community College's total proposed budget is $30 million. A $2 tuition hike, to $44 per credit hour, is included to offset possible cuts in state aid.
Neall has committed to only one new teacher for the college.