The Baltimore school board is struggling to come up with nearly $9 million in budget cuts, while deploring the state fiscal crisis that is forcing the panel to scale back vital programs and services.
"These are drastic actions for drastic times," said Patsy Baker Blackshear, deputy superintendent of schools, who gave a detailed budget briefing to a packed board meeting at Coldstream Park Elementary School last night.
The board is under the gun to draft a menu of budget cuts that will be presented to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke Monday.
The list of possibilities includes layoffs, furloughs and cuts in travel and other expenses.
But the state is also mandating cuts in such high-profile programs as prekindergarten instruction, dropout prevention nTC and free breakfasts and lunches.
And administrators concede that the cutbacks inevitably will be felt in the classroom.
The bleak presentation led administrators and board members alike to virtually lobby for a revision of the state's tax code that would pump more state aid into Baltimore's coffers.
That position puts them squarely in the political camp of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who has pressured state legislators to revamp the tax system.
"The underlying issue is not to return the few miserable dollars that they've just snatched away, but to restructure the . . . system," said Meldon S. Hollis Jr., a board member.
"What we need to do in the state of Maryland is look at the tax structure," said Rosetta G. Kerr, the school department's lobbyist. "This is the first round of cuts. It's going to get worse."
School officials have been told to come up with $8.8 million in cuts in fiscal 1992, as the state tries to free itself from a $450 million deficit.
About $7.5 million of the reduction involves indirect state aid, in
cluding the state's share of Social Security and teacher retirement.
The rest is made up of state-mandated cuts to specific state-funded programs. They include $650,000 from school meals; $212,000 from prekindergarten programs, a cut that could affect about 240 children; and $243,000 from dropout prevention.
As of last night, budget officials had identified $10.8 million in possible cuts, and were weighing which ones to present to the mayor.
School board members are clearly frustrated by having to cut a school budget that they insist is already inadequate.