Fearing More Cuts, School Board Lowers Its Sights

December 01, 1991|By Samuel Goldreich | Samuel Goldreich,Staff writer

The school board's preliminary budget goals for next year reflect lower expectations as the recession continues to undermine state revenues.

The spending plan the Board of Education tentatively adopted last week includes hiring 97 new teachers and 34 workers for support staff. That's about half the number of new teachers hired this year.

Most of the jobs would be needed either to operate a new Abingdonarea elementary school when it opens in September or maintain current student-staff ratios, under plans Superintendent Ray R. Keech presented to the board.

Concerned that the state will announce a secondround of education spending cuts this month, the board chipped away at more ambitious spending plans to try to preserve money for salary raises.

"We need to keep in mind what money will be available and it's important that we do the very best we can in terms of salary adjustments for personnel," Keech told the board during a work session Monday night.

Like other county personnel, school system employees were not given their seniority step raises this year nor cost-of-living adjustments provided under the last year of their contract.

Restoring step raises next year would add $1.1 million to the school system's $137-million budget.

It would cost $950,000 for every 1 percent increase awarded as a COLA.

The school system's wage freeze saved almost $8.2 million -- money needed to balance the county's budget for fiscal year 1992, which began July 1.

Despite budget constraints, the board supported efforts to improve academic standards as more than 1300 students enter the school system next year.

The formal budget the board will consider at its Dec. 9 meeting, would add:

* At the elementary level, 31 teachers, including four art instructors and a gifted and talented student coordinator, a guidance counselor, a librarian and a principal.

* At the secondary level, 55 classroom teachers and a gifted and talented coordinator.

* In special education, 10 teachers, four full-time and one part-time instructional assistants.

Other new postions include six school administrators, a psychologist and nine clerical and maintenance workers.

The school board put on hold most of two alternative budgets that Keech offered to reduce class size, assist curriculum and development and programs for gifted and talented students.

Money he sought to train teachers and administrators to meet science, math, and language arts standards under the Maryland School Performance Program was cut to $400,000, from more than $1 million.

And a plan to expand the gifted and talented education program from 13 schools to 27 was put on hold pending state budget developments.

"If we don't do something with this, there won't be any money available for pay raises," board president George Lisby said.

But the board adopted new standards for classroom equipment and materials, which have been funded at declining rates over the past three years.

The board supported SuperintendentKeech's goal of replacing textbooks, maps, charts, projectors, videotape machines and other class equipment at the rate of 10 percent a year.

It would cost more than $2 million to meet the 10-percent replacement standard for equipment next year. But the board settled for $400,000 -- a 46-percent increase over this year.

HIGHLIGHTS OF PROPOSED 1992-1993 SCHOOL BUDGET GOALS

3.9 million...to hire 97 new teachers and 34 support personnel

1.4 million...to replace buses and expand system for new 1,366 students.

..600,000... for classroom and instructional computers.

..278,000...to complete computerized administration network through all 44 schools.

..400,000...to replace overhead projector and other electronic classroom equipment.

..400,000...for staff and curriculum development.

..170,750...for textbooks and other classroom materials for new students.

..120,000...for classroom furniture.

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