Schools Try 'Selective Begging'

BALANCING ACT -- Carroll County government juggles expenses, revenues

March 15, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

School administrators are used to getting only some of what they askfor around budget time: Cuts from the county Department of Management and Budget are par for the course.

"But not this bad," Vernon Smith, director of school support services, said after what he called a"begging" session with Commissioners Elmer C. Lippy and Julia W. Gouge, who were noncommittal about restoring cuts recommended by their budget staff.

Commissioner President Donald I. Dell was in Annapolis.

Smith listed about two dozen capital improvement requests the schools say are needed in fiscal 1993, but which the county Budget Office says must be cut back or eliminated. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

"We did selective begging," Smith said later. "We recognize the (county) budget is tight."

He and Superintendent Edward Shilling drew sometimes dramatic safety and accessibility examples.

They asked to restore $15,000 to add aluminum kick plates in the gaps on the freestanding bleachers at Westminster High to prevent another accident, suchas the one in which a toddler slid through the gap at an event last year. The child was not badly hurt, Smith said, but some bleachers are 20 feet high.

Another request for $15,000 for motorized bleachers at Liberty High would keep bleachers aligned and prevent collapses such as in Charles County, where several students were hurt, Shillingsaid.

"That's why this is more than a 'nice-to-have,' " Shilling said.

Smith also asked to restore $100,000 for outdoor canopies, especially at the Education Center.

"It takes a considerable amountof time to remove a child in a wheelchair from a bus," he said. "When it's pouring down rain, they are literally drenched by the time they get into the building."

The schools are asking for a total of $11,315,070 in capital improvements, as compared to $11.9 million this year. The county Budget Office is recommending the request be cut to $7,533,800.

Of the $7.5 million, $417,000 would come from local money, $3,112,700 would be paid through bonds, $2,169,000 would come from the state and $1,835,100 from federal or other sources.

The largest request is $4 million for expanding Mechanicsville Elementary. County Budget Director Steven Powell recommended its financing through$2 million in bonds and the rest through state money.

Preserved in the budget are $400,000 in furnishings and equipment for the to-be-built Runnymede Elementary and the expansion of Winfield Elementary.

Powell said he tried to preserve as many projects as possible, based on the priority assigned them by school officials.

He said the commissioners won't be able to decide the final school operating and capital budgets until more is known about state aid.

Powell said the school budget could be cut even further because of threatened state reductions of up to $7 million in Action Plan for Educational Excellence money Carroll is counting on.

He said there may be less expensive ways to address some of the safety and accessibility issues, such as the kick plates for bleachers.

"A 2-by-4 is a lot cheaper than an aluminum plate, and it accomplishes the same task," Powell said.

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