Briefing on school budget warns of deep cuts, urges parents' role

September 11, 1992|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff Writer

During a typical year, the school system's budget process leaves many parents frustrated, convinced their children's needs are not being met, usually for want of more money.

But the past year, with its rounds of state budget cuts, has been anything but typical -- and especially frustrating. This year promises more of the same.

Wednesday night, the County Council of PTAs sponsored a forum at Annapolis High School, to explain the mechanics of the budget process and suggest how parents can get involved.

"Last year was an extraordinary budget year," Assistant County Budget Officer Thomas W. Mullenix said. "Whether we have to go through that process again depends on a lot of things mainly at the state level."

About 35 people attended, wanting to find out what happens to the capital and operating budgets from the time the school superintendent submits them to the school board until the County Council approves a final budget.

County Executive Robert R. Neall and Superintendent C. Berry Carter II were joined by members of their staffs, who explained the function of each agency during the budget process.

Jolene Chambers, parent of two Central Elementary School students, said the school system and county need to involve parents in the budget process earlier, and at the individual school level.

"[The budget] needs to relate to us and our schools," Mrs. Chambers said. "Parents want to know how the money is spent at individual schools. Unless we're involved in the process earlier, it's hard not to get worked up later."

Residents also had an opportunity to learn of impending cuts to the county and the school system.

"We are obviously living in a changed economy, and change is the hardest thing to adjust to," Mr. Neall said. "You don't like it and I don't like it, but we're going to have to change."

The county lost $42 million in state funds last year. The school system sustained $8 million of that loss. Mr. Neall said this year's cuts may run even deeper. "I really don't want to stand here tonight and tell you there won't be cuts in education," he said. "But I will tell you the cuts will be as little as they have to be."

At a recent briefing with state officials, Mr. Neall said counties were told their portion of the state's $450 million deficit would be about $150 million. Mr. Neall said he expects that the county will lose about $15 million in state money.

"The message from the state is education is on the table [for cuts]," Mr. Neall said. "And not just [kindergarten through grade 12], but higher education, too. I think we have to prepare for that."

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