Anticipating Cuts, Lorton Submits Expanded Budget

$374 Million Is Not Extravagant, Superintendent Says

January 24, 1992|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff writer

Faced with the prospect of additional cuts in education at both the state and regional levels, Anne Arundel County Superintendent Larry L. Lorton has presented a school budget to Board of Education members that even he admits will have to endure further trimming and could result in a loss of services.

"No matter how you attack it, your staff does not believe that we're going to be able to do anything but reduce services," Lorton said.

Lorton, who announced last Friday that he would not continue as superintendent when his contract expires in June, presented a $374 million budget for fiscal year 1993 at the end of a six-hour board meeting that began Wednesday evening.

The proposed budget, which does not include salary increases or cost-of-living adjustments for school employees, is $33 million more than last year's budget and $45 million more than the amended school budget passed last December.

The County Council adopted an amended budget as a result of state cuts of about $32 million.

School board members immediately attacked the increase in the budget, making it clear there would be further, possibly substantial, cuts.

"This $374 million certainly reaches out and grabs me," said board member Tom Twombly. "We have much fine-tuning to do."

Lorton responded: "It does jump out and get you right between the eyes. But it's not extravagant."

Despite the controversy surrounding cuts to school services and programs, board members made itclear they would be looking at all items to see where cuts could be made.

Board president Jo Ann Tollenger suggested that the superintendent's staff investigate how much money would be saved if high school students were required to walk two miles to school instead of 1 1/2 miles before being provided with transportation.

In addition, Tollenger asked staff members to estimate the projected savings from introducing fees in the driver's education program.

Two weeks ago, the board voted to charge a $20 fee for driver's education for the remainder of this school year, a move that is expected to save the school system $1.2 million. Beginning in September, students would have topay between $100 and $200 for the course.

About 50 people, including driver's education students and their parents, attended Wednesday's meeting to ask the board to reconsider its decision.

"We're nottalking about saving $1.2 million," said Michael Ragland, the parentof two students at Annapolis High. "We're talking about saving hundreds of lives.

"If the school board does not reconsider this action, you will be risking students' lives and the lives of everyone else on the highways," he added.

Board members said they will look for budget cuts in areas that have never been trimmed.

Twombly, for instance, suggested that board members reconsider a requested increase in money for special education programs. The superintendent has askedfor a $5 million increase for such programs, to $38.3 million.

Board members also suggested that the superintendent's staff consider raising attendance fees for extracurricular activities such as football and basketball games. Charging the participants should be looked into, Twombly said.

"I think the bottom line for this budget cycle is nothing is sacred," said board member Dorothy Chaney.

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