Schools Find Some Relief Amid A Sea Of Troubles

October 13, 1991|By Samuel Goldreich | Samuel Goldreich,Staff writer

It was a case of good news, bad news last week as Harford educators waited to see what the State House would do to their budgets.

First, the good news. Legislative leaders abandoned a proposal to take back $2.1 million from the Harford school system as part of the statewide cuts to save trooper jobs and several social service programs.

That means county schools will probably be able to adjust to an earlier $105,000 cut without layoffs or major program changes, said Bill Rufenacht, the county Board of Education's finance director.

Before the $2.1 million plan was killed Wednesday, School Superintendent Ray R. Keech worried that a program to help potential dropouts might be cut from one high school.

"How we might handle the $105,000 might be impossible if they add $2.1 million," Keech said Tuesday. At the time, he was mulling a $45,000 cut in the state's Maryland Tomorrow grant, which allows teachers in five high schools to visit homes and tutor students at-risk of dropping out.

Now, the bad news: The county school and library systems must cope with a $741,960 cut in state aid for Social Security and pension benefits. Schools will have to absorb more than 90 percent of the figure, Rufenacht said.

But in more good news, Keech will tell the Board of Education that he has a $300,000 surplus due to unanticipated federal local-impact aid given to help educate the children of military families stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

The school system will still make system-widecuts in maintenance, equipment and instructional materials, Rufenacht said Friday as the legislature debated balancing the state budget.

And for more bad news, a tuition increase seems even more likely in January at Harford Community College. The school took a hit two weeks ago of almost $1.5 million, or 10 percent of its total budget.

But the level of county assistance is probably diminished by another $2.5 million cut in state aid. That's on top of $3.7 million announced two weeks ago.

"It's clear to us at this point, regardless of what the county does, the (college) board will have to deal with the inevitability of a tuition increase," Ryan said. "I would be very surprised if there isn't a substantial increase."

Rufenacht said he could not get an official accounting of the money the school system would lose, but was relying instead on word of mouth from a county senator to a deputy school superintendent.

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