WESTMINSTER — What if the Carroll school board had a public hearing on the superintendent's proposed $112.27 million budget and nobody came? Yesterday's gloomy weather gave board members and educators cause to think fewer than the approximately 35 who showed up at the last meeting -- or maybe nobody -- would attend last night's final hearing on the proposed 1992-1993 spending plan.
But about 50 people showed up, mostly principals, administrators and teachers, at West Middle School, where the board unanimously approved the proposed budget. It calls for hiring about 75 new teachers and other personnel -- in all areas -- to accommodate a 3.7 percent growth in enrollment and staff the new Friendship Valley Elementary School.
"It's distressing to me to see such little interest in the proposed budget," said board President Cheryl A. McFalls. "I honestly believe it's because the whole economic climate is not very good."
Although Superintendent R. Edward Shilling's plan is $5.14 million more than the original budget for the current year, the bulk of the increase is earmarked to meet the needs of an additional 852 students.
"I'm disappointed that we can't have more in the way of improvement," said board Vice President Carolyn Scott. "But we're scratching to get what we have. It's the reality of the economic situation."
In pastyears, hearings on the superintendent's proposed budget generally have been well-attended, with parents and interest groups asking for more money for various programs.
"People are discouraged," Scott said. "They see the situation and the cuts being made."
Only minor revisions were made to Shilling's fiscal plan. And board members, alongwith Shilling, cautioned the budget is not cast in stone.
Although Carroll is expecting about $6.1 million more in the state's aid program APEX (Action Plan for Educational Excellence), educators noted proposals in Annapolis could erase much of that.
The budget includes no salary increases or longevity or increment steps for the district's 2,200 workers, who did not receive a pay raise this year.
Cindy Cummings, president of the Carroll County Education Association, which represents about 1,400 teachers, said she was a "little upset salary and increments were not included in the budget, but I understand the situation."
The board has not negotiated any contracts with employees for the next school year.
"Ed Shilling is saying quite clearly that this is just a starting point for his budget," said Harold Fox, a local representative for the Maryland State Teachers Association. "A lot of change is expected out of the legislature and that could cause a turnaround for increments and salaries."
The budget now goes to the county commissioners for approval of the $56.72 million requested from the county, $1.33 million less than the school board sought in this year's original budget.