Baltimore County School Superintendent Robert Y. Dubel last night proposed a new but "austere" $518.8 million operating budget to the school board.
The proposed spending plan virtually duplicated the total he asked for last year -- and didn't get.
"This is by far the most austere and frugal budget request placed before the board," Mr. Dubel said, noting that it was his 16th annual budget proposal. "It is reflective of an unprecedented, grim fiscal climate."
The $518.8 million budget proposal for the 1992-1993 fiscal year, which begins July 1, reflects a sagging economy. Mr. Dubel asked for only $250,110 more than he did a year ago. He added that he found the tight proposal particularly frustrating because the budget is his last before he retires at the end of June.
If the budget were granted in its entirety, which is not certain, it would result in $29.9 million or 6.1 percent increase over the current budget. Perhaps most noticeable in the proposed budget is the lack of a request for an across-the-board raise for teachers. That was a decision that resulted in an impasse in negotiations between the Teachers Union of Baltimore County and the school board this week.
Both sides plan to meet with a mediator next Wednesday, and Mr. Dubel has stressed that the board would be willing to renegotiate should the economy brighten.
This would be the second year of no pay raise for county teachers. A 3 percent proposed increase last year was turned down.
Mr. Dubel said teachers have received "wretched salary treatment" in recent years and acknowledged that the county schools' continued "pursuit of excellence" would be at their expense.
"It's a sad shame . . ." he said. "Our employees deserve a 10 percent increase." Mr. Dubel said this is the first time in his 16 years as superintendent that he hasn't included a raise for teachers in his budget proposal.
With the 90,000-student district projected to grow by 3,563, the budget calls for an additional 257.8 classroom positions, the fraction representing part-time workers. Included would be special-area teachers, counselors and librarians.
Mr. Dubel said that would be just enough to keep up with the anticipated increase in enrollment.
The budget requested five more prekindergarten teachers and five instructional assistants, reflecting the county's continued effort to beef up its prekindergarten program. Last year, one of the budget's only expansions increased the number of half-day prekindergarten programs, which number 66.
The 1993 fiscal budget would expand the total number of sessions to 76.
"The prekindergarten program is a key element in striving for our major goal of dealing with changing demographics and an increasingly mobile population," Mr. Dubel said. "It would be unthinkable not to plan budget increases to accommodate the . . . additional students expected in September," he said. "These children only get to start school once."
Other positions recommended include a principal and an assistant principal for the Seven Oaks Middle School, which is scheduled to open in September, and an increase of 16.5 kindergarten positions -- one for normal pupil increases and the remaining 15.5 to comply with the 1991 General Assembly's kindergarten requirement.
Mr. Dubel stressed the importance of receiving the full anticipated increase of $21.5 million in state aid in order to achieve "full funding of this modest budget request. This sum will do little more than fund direct cost of educating our additional students."
The board will conduct a public hearing on the proposed budget at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4 at Catonsville High School. It is scheduled to vote on the budget at 8 p.m. Feb. 27 at Greenwood.