2 school systems coping with budgets Baltimore County plan almost the same as one in '91.

January 24, 1992|By Meredith Schlow | Meredith Schlow,Baltimore County Bureau

Reviews ranging from "responsible" to "unrealistic" came in today for the $518.8 million operating budget that Baltimore County School Superintendent Robert Y. Dubel presented to the school board.

The spending plan virtually duplicated the total that the superintendent 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 last night, noting that it was his 16th annual budget proposal.

The $518.8 million budget proposal for the 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 said he found the tight proposal particularly frustrating because the budget is his last before he retires.

If the budget were granted in its entirety, which is unlikely, it would result in $29.9 million or 6.1 percent increase over the current budget.

But County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, D-5th, said today a 6.1 percent increase is more than the county can afford. Mr. Gardina said in light of the fact other county departments were asked to cut their budgets for fiscal 1993, Mr. Dubel's is unrealistic.

"If he had cut back outside-of-classroom items first and then put in an amount for increased student enrollment, it probably would have come out significantly less than a 6.1 percent increase," he said.

Towson Councilman Douglas B. Riley, R-4th, on the other hand, called Mr. Dubel's "a very responsible budget considering that 4,000 new students will be coming in."

Councilman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-3d, said he hadn't seen details of the proposal, but said he thinks Mr. Dubel is following the county executive's lead in not raising people's expectations by asking for things he knows he won't get.

Absent in the budget is a request for a pay raise for teachers. That decision resulted in an impasse in negotiations between the Teachers Association of Baltimore County and the school board this week.

Both sides plan to meet with a mediator 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 he hasn't included a raise for teachers in his budget.

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 expected 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 new budget would expand the number to 76.

Other positions recommended include a principal and an assistant principal for Seven Oaks Middle School, due 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 increase of $21.5 million in state aid.

The board will conduct a public hearing on the proposed budget at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4 at Catonsville High School. It is to vote on the budget at 8 p.m. Feb. 27 at Greenwood.

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