School board members were sent back to the drawing board yesterday after county officials denied their plea to transfer $800,000 that could have helped balance the board's budget.
Board members were toldthat County Executive Robert R. Neall denied their request to transfer the school money into the school system's operating budget to helppay for bus contractors, testing, teacher sabbaticals and salaries for middle school interdisciplinary team leaders.
That news comes on the heels of Neall's request to reduce the school system's already approved $341 million school budget by $5.1 million as part of the county's cost containment effort. The county is anticipating a $10 million revenue shortfall.
School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton told the board it may be facing cuts closer to $6.1 million. School budget officials already are warning that the transportation department may be about $660,000 in the hole.
The transfer would have provided $340,000 for the bus contractors, who had threatened a job action if they did not receive some increase before school opened. Board members also must come up with money to pay for eight teacher sabbaticals that are part of existing contract language.
The $800,000 became available after the school system merged insurance plans with the county.
Among school board members, patience with the county is waning almost as fast as available money to keep school programs operating. Talks are resurfacing about cutting drivers education, dismissing permanent substitutes and reducing the number of activity buses.
"We don't have to do this," board member Thomas Twombly said of efforts to cooperate with the county. "We are a separate and autonomous department. We have a legal right to pursue this with them."
School board President Jo Ann Tollenger asked Lorton to prepare lists of programs that have not been funded and recommended cuts.The lists are slated to be discussed at the Sept. 16 board meeting. A vote would be taken in October.
"It's all up for grabs," Tollenger said of possible cuts. "The board has to look at all the options."
County Budget Analyst Greg Norris sat through the daylong meetingyesterday, quietly listening to board complaints. Norris said Neall's actions are aimed at being prepared for the future -- including thepossibility of more money trouble.
"He turned them down because of the anticipated shortfall," Norris said. "It's part of the whole $10 million. It's a voluntary cost containment, and if things get better later in the year, (getting the money) may be a possibility.
"Wehave to find out what the state is doing. We're just putting a hold on it. All the surrounding counties are preparing them
selves to be asked to do more to address the state's $150 million shortfall. We're probably ahead of the game."
In other business yesterday, boardmembers got an early start reviewing the proposed $18.4 million capital budget for fiscal year 1993. Parole Elementary is the only construction project on the list; other items involve safety or required facility updates.
North County, expansion of Broadneck High School and the planned Support Services Center already have been approved.
The capital budget requests include:
* Replacement and reinsulation of boilers -- $630,000.
* Health and safety projects -- $300,000.
* Asbestos removal and litigation -- $653,000.
* Securing/removal of underground storage tanks -- $694,000.
* Major roof replacement -- $1.3 million.
* Handicapped access -- $200,000.