School budget-slashing options are being given to Schmoke Budget to be pared by $8.8 million in wake of reductions in state aid.

October 23, 1991|By Mark Bomster and Michael A. Fletcher | Mark Bomster and Michael A. Fletcher,Evening Sun Staff

Baltimore school officials today are planning to give Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke a list of options for cutting $8.8 million from the school budget, in the wake of cutbacks in state aid.

But members of the major school unions complicated the job yesterday by flatly rejecting two proposals that would save an estimated $5.6 million in fiscal 1992.

Meanwhile, the mayor said yesterday that he plans to decide on budget cuts before Nov. 1, and is meeting with agency heads and union officials on the proposals.

The mayor said the police department will achieve its budget reduction without layoffs, but that the agency will have to impose a hiring freeze. That could be a problem because the 3,000-member department already has more than 100 police-officer vacancies.

Schmoke rejected a Health Department proposal that would have cut school nurses, calling them "a major priority."

The school unions are objecting to proposed furloughs of up to threedays for all employees and to proposed cancellation of a policy letting employees convert their sick leave to cash.

Irene Dandridge, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, said her members already have given up pay raises this year because of the city's budget crunch.

"These same people should not be forced to take the brunt of this reduction of funds," she said.

The furlough and sick-leave conversion proposals also drew opposition from the Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association, and from the City Union of Baltimore, which represents support personnel.

Instead, various unions urged the board to look for savings elsewhere in the budget and recommended a number of options:

* An early retirement program for teachers that Dandridge said could save between $3 million and $6 million, depending on how many of an estimated 200 teachers are replaced.

* Use of teachers' aides as substitutes, at no extra salary, which would save an estimated $1 million.

* A $1.3 million cutback in textbook spending.

* Elimination of new state-mandated tests, estimated to save $2 million. The state hasn't dropped its requirement of those tests, however.

* Unspecified cuts in inter-scholastic athletics and extra-curricular activities.

For its part, the school department staff also gave board members an updated list of optional cuts, abandoning an earlier suggestion to charge students 20 cents a ride for commuting to school on Mass Transit Administration buses.

Board members took no action at last night's budget committee meeting, which was capped by a closed session involving personnel items.

But School Superintendent Walter G. Amprey is expected to give the mayor a range of budget-cutting options, including those the unions don't like, said board President Joseph L. Smith.

The mayor, meanwhile, is somewhat philosophical about the budget crisis.

"I try to tell the agencies to look at this as an opportunity to reorganize government," Schmoke said. "We should stop bemoaning our fate and start looking at this as an opportunity for real change."

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