Public to comment on school budget plan Proposal increases spending 8 percent

February 03, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

About 75 parents and others have signed up to testify at two school board public hearings that begin tonight and address next year's proposed operating budget.

Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's $202 million budget calls for no new programs and no major restoration of cuts made last year. The proposed budget, which is 8 percent higher than last year, is driven by two factors: the expected 1,500 addi

tional students next school year and the cost of paying Social Security for school employees, an expense that had been paid by the state.

The budget, which maintains current staff levels and human relations initiatives, does not include money

for teacher salary increases next year. The board will have to amend the budget when negotiations with the teachers union are finished.

This week's hearings provide an opportunity for the public to tell board members what they think is important.

"We used to say people came with wish lists, with wonderful, marvelous things," said Susan Cook, board vice chairwoman. "But during the fiscal crisis during the last few years, the public has responded. They've come in to ask us not to cut some programs, telling them what is near and dear to their heart."

Speakers have been asked to keep their comments to three minutes each and to bring in written

statements of their testimony.

Last year, parents pleaded with board members to increase or keep funding for such programs as the Black Student Achievement Program and special education. Parents suggested ways to slash the budget, including cuts in administration.

Teachers have also taken part, suggesting closing the Gateway School for students with behavioral problems and posting memos instead of sending them to faculty.

"It's a tried and true process, and we take everything they say and take into consideration what is working for their child and their school," Ms. Cook said. "I think their words carry great weight in what not to cut; or, if something is being cut

too drastically, in what to restore."

Most likely up for discussion this year is a proposal to change times for high schools and some middle schools. To save about $500,000 in transportation costs, the school system proposes starting high schools 15 minutes earlier, at 7:15 a.m. Many parents say that move will force their children to walk to school in the dark.

The school board will have to add $500,000 to the budget if it decides not to change school time. Superintendent Hickey excluded that amount as a cost-saving measure.

The board is expected to vote on the budget Feb. 23 and submit it to County Executive Charles I. Ecker on March 15.

School board hearings

Tonight's public hearing begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Department of Education, 10910 Route 108 in Ellicott City. The second hearing will be at the same time and place tomorrow.

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