Good old-fashioned marketing is the tool Florence Combs is using to help the Mount Airy Recreation Council beat budget cuts.
Combs andother community coordinators in Carroll learned last month that cutsin the school system threatened a longtime coexistence -- the Board of Education used to cover custodian overtime for weekend recreation council activities.
But because of system-wide budget cuts in February, the schools will only pay for custodian overtime through April, said Vernon Smith,director of school support services. He is set to report the situation to the Board of Education today at its meeting.
"As a parent, Iappreciate the Board of Education's commitment to schools and education first," Combs said. "At the same time, I realize you can't get blood out of a turnip, and if the money's not there for the school system, where is the recreation council going to get it?"
Ultimately, both departments are county funded, and both serve mostly children. Both are also looking for a way to continue weekend activities, with some success.
Activities scheduled for weeknights are not threatened, because most buildings have a custodian on regular duty then anyway, Smith said. Private groups such as churches using the schools on weekends already pay the custodians' overtime, Smith said, and that will continue.
The overtime can run up to $20 an hour, depending on the particular custodian's salary, and must be for at least four hours, Smith said. Most recreation councils use school buildings for six to eight hours on a Saturday, he said, and the school board doesn't have enough money to pay a custodian for all that time.
Combs facedeither ditching the April-June session of classes that include everything from gymnastics to a series on the Civil War, or finding money to pay the overtime. Her idea is to offer more classes on weeknights to maximize the school use during non-overtime hours, and charge a $4building-use fee for all classes. The income should cover the cost of a custodian for weekend classes, she said.
The new classes she will offer are dog obedience, sign language and time management on weeknights, and karate and children's aerobics on Saturdays.
But she also is hoping to find a school employee other than a custodian who will be willing to take responsibility for the building during rec events, for a nominal fee or as a volunteer. Smith said that would be acceptable, but not all rec councils may be able to find school employees to take on the duty.
Meanwhile, he is looking for another $18,000 to $20,000 somewhere else in the budget to cover custodian overtime for the rest of this year.
And recreation and parks officials are studying a program in Baltimore County that uses paid and volunteerrec council personnel to handle such duties.
Custodians unlock and lock buildings and, in between, make sure they're being used properly and offer help with any situation, such as lights that don't work.
Groups sponsoring the activities usually pitch in to help clean up and push back bleachers so the custodian doesn't have to stay too long, Smith said.
Smith said the board isn't happy about cutting overtime pay this year, but money has been shaved all over the budget.
"These are unusual times," Smith said. "This is probably the toughest budget year I can recall in the 21 years I've been in this schoolsystem."