County Council members are warning school officials not to hold student programs hostage in an attempt to have their entire $353.2 million budget request approved.
During budget sessions Thursday, schoolofficials said some programs may be in jeopardy if their allocation is not increased above the $341.7 million budget recommendation by County Executive Robert R. Neall.
"I don't like to be held at ransom," Councilman Carl G. "Dutch" Holland, R-Pasadena, said, blasting the board for considering cuts to student programs. "If you get what you want, you'll do what we want."
Under one cost-saving plan by the board, schools would limit extracurricular clubs to two per school and make fewer work-study opportunities available to students in athletic and government positions.
Elementary instrumental music and art classes -- which are not required by the state -- could be among the first programs to go. Also, a swim club that was planned to begin at Annapolis Senior would be put on hold.
"If the board receives less than requested, the board mayhave to make the decision to look at optional programs," Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Cheryl Wilhoyte told council members during an afternoon session.
Councilman David Boschert, D-Crownsville, reminded school board members in the audience of a bailout by the county of a $600,000 overrun for after-school programs earlier this year. Boschert said he is tired of students' bearing the brunt of the board's financial problems.
"It's always the kids who suffer," he said. "I don't understand it. We're putting pressure on the littlest constituents. We have our priorities backward.
"I hope you don't exclude music. We always tell kids to work hard, but we're taking awaywhat gives them relief from math class."
But even as School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton said he would try to steer away from trimming some of the programs targeted, he warned that belt-tightening may cut across every area of the school budget.
Parents like Ruth Edmunds of the South Shore Elementary Parent Teacher Association were among the crowd prepared to plead their case before council members.
"We were deleted from the budget for renovation planning," Edmunds said of her school. "We want to be put back on the list. We also want to make sure they keep the elementary music program."
County music teachers lined the back of the room as their representatives and supportive parents asked that the program survive.
Tom Paolino, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, said his group was concerned with plans to shift some guidance counselors from 12-month to 10-month employees.
He said plans to shift the work schedules for 15 guidance counselors would actually cost the school systemmore and hurt employees facing a $7,000 pay reduction. The issue is being debated as part of negotiations between the teachers association and the Board of Education.
School officials are trying to reinstate the 97 teaching positions requested to handle an estimated 1,500additional students next year. Neall has proposed only 35 new teachers, including 10 for special education.