School budget won't require higher taxes Hickey unveils $202 million plan

January 15, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Next year's proposed $202 million school operating budget is reasonable enough so that the county probably won't have to raise taxes to fund it, said Superintendent Michael E. Hickey.

"The county revenue picture is looking very good . . .," he said at a Board of Education meeting last night, when he unveiled his spending plan before some 100 parents and teachers. If that continues, he said, the budget could be funded without any tax increase.

But the revenue picture for the state looks less rosy, and "unless Keno pays off," the proposed budget may be cut, Mr. Hickey said.

School board chairman Dana Hanna expressed concern that the proposed budget contained no money to expand and improve '' programs and said that the school system has to "manage the momentum we've achieved, despite the rough times."

Mr. Hickey's proposed budget -- roughly $15 million, or 8 percent more than last year's -- is largely driven by increasing enrollment and the additional cost of paying Social Security taxes for teachers and school employees, an expenditure shared by the state and county in the past.

Roughly half of the proposed spending increase would go to hiring 82 new teachers and supplying materials and books for the county's two new schools, Rockburn Elementary in Elkridge and Mount View Middle School in Marriottsville. Both are scheduled to open next school year. Some of the money would cover the cost of teaching the 1,500 new students expected to enroll.

The other half of the proposed spending increase -- nearly $7 million -- is reserved for the Social Security tax and is categorized under "Fixed Charges."

The board will hold a hearing Feb. 3 -- and Feb. 4, if public demand warrants -- for parents and others to discuss next year's proposed budget. The board is expected to vote on the proposal Feb. 23 and submit it to County Executive Charles I. Ecker on March 15.

In other matters:

* Parents, teachers and school officials agreed to work to get the state legislature to void the mandatory 180-day attendance for kindergartners. The new requirement would force kindergartners to go to school the last three days of the school year and half-days when parent-teacher conferences are scheduled.

"By the time the children arrive in the classroom, remove their coats and attendance is taken, it will be time to put their coats back on, turn them around and put them back on the buses to go home," said Mary Pat Robinson, who teaches kindergarten at Clemens Crossing Elementary School in Columbia.

"The confusion among the parents results in bus drivers finding no one to greet children at home because of the shortened schedule," she said. "Many times, these students end up staying for the p.m. shortened schedule and going home with the rest of the school."

Mr. Hickey said he is working with other school superintendents to overturn the new requirement.

* The parent of a Longfellow Elementary School fifth-grader said her plea to get her daughter and about nine other children on a school bus was falling on deaf ears.

Kathleen H. Lane and her family live less than a mile from the school. When her 9-year-old daughter walks to school, she goes through open fields, an apartment complex and two major thoroughfares.

"I cannot look my child in the eye and assure her when she walks out of our house every morning that she will arrive safely at school or return home safely," she said.

"How do we know that a child will not be raped or assaulted on an unsupervised path?" she said.

Mrs. Lane would like crossing guards stationed at street corners, more police patrolling her neighborhood, and bushes trimmed and ditches patched along the route -- all suggestions recommended by the state Transportation Department and a walking route committee.

Mr. Hanna said he would review her complaint and get back to her.

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