School supply money used for utility bills

May 07, 1992|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff writer

Faced with an unbalanced budget, county school board members transferred money yesterday that had been earmarked for instructional materials to pay for garbage collection and utility bills.

"We told the County Council back in December that we would be able to come in under budget with the money they gave us," said board President JoAnn Tollenger. "But we are dealing with a County Council we sometimes can't get through to."

The board yesterday voted to transfer $1.4 million from instructional supplies and materials to balance other categories in their budget. The $1.4 million is part of $1.8 million County Executive Robert R. Neall gave to the school board last December, specifically for instructional materials.

The school system is over budget for the fiscal year 1992, which ends June 30, for salaries, telephones, automobile parts, consulting and equipment, as well as for utilities and garbage collection.

Board members unanimously agreed the budget-balancing was a decision they didn't want to make, a decision they are sure no one, especially council members, will like.

"Did we do all we could do to make the right projections?" Tollenger asked budget officer Jack White. "Do we have a shortfall due to the [gas and electric] rate increases? I know these seem like tough questions, but we're going to have to answer even tougher questions from the council."

However, the tough questioning for the school board began with pointed queries from teachers and parents yesterday.

"Something is seriously wrong here," said Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County [TAAAC] President Thomas J. Paolino. "The county executive gave $1.8 million for materials of instruction. That money belongs in the classroom. It should not be used for an over-expenditure of garbage collection."

Carolyn Roeding, president of the county's Council of PTAs, said the transfers appeared to be the board's own "personal fourth quarter transfer. I think the county executive should come up with the funds," Roeding added.

Acting Superintendent C. Berry Carter II said he, too, would like to see the money used for instructional materials. However, since the school system is mandated by state law to have a balanced budget in each of its categories, the transfer was unavoidable, he said.

"The problem is we have tried cost containment," Carter said. "We froze positions. We turned down our thermostats until our secretaries were typing with gloves. The fact is, we just can't make it."

Anne Young, chairwoman of the Countywide Citizens Advisory Committee, said the County Council has to be made "graphically" aware of the effect the school system's budget crunch has had in the classroom. Students are buying their own typewriter ribbons, computer disks and materials for art and home economic classes, Young said.

But board member Nancy Gist said the County Council should already know about the school system's budget woes. "At no time have they been ignorant, and at no time have they been innocent," Gist said.

By transferring money for instructional materials in order to balance the budget, Paolino said the board was doing nothing more than making the County Council look good.

"Why should you sit here and have to take money away from the children when it's not your fault," Paolino said. "As long as you continue to let the county executive and the County Council under-fund your budget and then you make due, we will never get a balanced budget. If you consistently fund their mistakes, then it's never going to get any better."

In other action, the board voted to "take the heat" and adopt a school calendar for the upcoming year that would have school begin Aug. 31.

Some parents and community members had complained that vacation plans had been made for the last week in August under the assumption that school would not begin until after Labor Day, as it has for many years.

Lisa Saffran, president of the Annapolis 4-H club, said many county students also are members of the 4-H club and would be participating in the Maryland State Fair, which runs from Aug. 27 to Sept. 7.

Tollenger said she would take full responsibility for the lateness in adopting the school calendar but that the board would follow the recommendations of the committee, which voted in favor of the Aug. 31 start date.

However, the board agreed to adopt a calendar for the 1993-1994 school year no later than its meeting in December. Tentatively, the 1993-1994 school year is to begin Aug. 31.

The board also voted to make Maryland School Performance Assessment Program test results available by July 1 to any parent who requests them. The test results, which are not part of a student's cumulative record, will not be given to parents unless requested.

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