Board of Education President Jo Ann Tollenger describes this year's budgetary battle as a tug of war, with the board being pulled by County Council members on one side and the county executive on the other,with each side seeking more control over board spending.
A bill County Executive Robert R. Neall had approved by the legislature giveshim and other executives the power to trim the board's budget; the council was scheduled to vote on enabling legislation last night that would start the budget process over again this month after only half the fiscal year.
Council members, however, have begun to complain that Neall is wielding too much power; an amendment to the legislation, introduced byCouncilman David Boschert, D-Crownsville, would give the council unprecedented power to alter the executive's budget proposals.
Board members, meanwhile, see themselves as stuck between a rock and a hardplace.
"It puts the board in a tough position," Tollenger said. "If the (Boschert amendment) passes and the County Council has the opportunity to look at the revenue side, it could change things. If there is a rainy day fund that Neall is holding, I'm not sure where it leaves us.
"We have to submit a budget, and we are looking at makingcuts that are least damaging."
At a meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. tomorrow at board headquarters in Annapolis, school officials say, they will do their part, slicing another $5 million off their $341 million budget. The four unions representing school employees are slated to report back on a proposal for four-day furloughs as a way of saving $4 million.
Board members already have trimmed $5 million from the budget, in response to an earlier request by Neall. They also havemapped out a tentative plan that could save $2 million, which includes (savings in parentheses):
* Suspension of the ISIS systemwide computer program for the remainder of the year ($100,000).
* Limiting reimbursement for executive staff ($21,000).
* Suspending all recruitment activities ($10,000).
* Eliminating teacher workshops ($40,000).
* Deferring replacement school buses for a year ($75,000).
* Using activity buses for one day only at middle-junior highs ($275,000).
* Eliminating non-emergency car phones ($2,000).
Inaddition to making budget cuts, the board is scheduled to address a $100,000 shortfall in the Maryland Tomorrow program, which helps students identified as being at-risk of dropping out.
Other meeting agenda items include a construction status report, a design developmentplan for Meade Middle and a vote on capital funding for renovations to Eastport, Severna Park and Annapolis elementary schools.