Grim picture painted of school budget

December 15, 1992|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

Superintendent of Schools C. Berry Carter II and the Board of Education last night painted a bleak budget picture for the County Council in hopes of possibly increasing next year's education budget.

"We need about $27 million just to stand still," Mr. Carter told the council meeting at the Arundel Center.

That figure includes an additional $2.5 million in the next fiscal year to pay for salary increments; $1.8 million for increases in utilities payments; $4 million to offset increases in fringe benefits, and $15 million to pay for the Social Security taxes that had been paid by the state until the General Assembly, in a budget-balancing move, recently shifted the burden back to the counties.

In addition, the schools will need 100 more teachers to keep up with increases in enrollment, the education officials said.

Mr. Carter pointed to the Social Security taxes as an especially hard hit.

"That means our budget will be up an additional $15 million from now on, without buying an additional paper clip, an eraser, a teacher or anything," he said.

Mr. Carter noted that County Executive Robert R. Neall told him that the school system will not have to pay all of the Social Security tax, but he has not yet been given a firm figure.

Jack White, budget officer for the school system, pointed out that the county's funding for teacher salaries fell short in the current fiscal year, forcing administrators to leave vacant about 50 teaching positions. The Council had authorized 85 new teaching positions in the budget. The reason for the shortfall is that the county underestimated the average teacher salary by about $500 and therefore did not allocate enough money to fill all 85 positions. "So that is an issue we wanted to bring to the table this evening, that we don't have enough money to fill all the positions," Mr. White said.

Council members asked questions about individual budget categories, but gave no indication of how much additional funding they would support in the next education budget.

Councilman Carl Holland, R-Pasadena, took board members to task for not finalizing a contract with Mr. Carter, even though he has been in the job for several months.

"I would anticipate that decisions like these should be taken as priority decisions and should be acted on very quickly, and a delay of six months is a little bit questionable in this kind of situation," Mr. Holland said.

"We are fine tuning one and we are close to consummating one," said Board President Vincent Leggett, adding that the contract should be signed within the next 30 days.

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