School system offers board proposals that would add $18 million to budget

December 12, 1993|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Staff Writer

The wheels of the school budget process for 1994 have started rolling a little faster in anticipation of the February deadline for approval.

School board members met last Monday to discuss the preliminary objectives that will be used to develop the proposed operating budget.

The objectives list for staff, programs and maintenance would add $18.2 million to the current operating budget of $165 million.

With more than 1,200 additional students expected next year, staffing needs are especially important, said Albert F. Seymour, deputy superintendent of schools.

"We are hoping to improve the staffing ratio at the elementary and middle schools," while maintaining the current ratio in high schools, he said. This would mean adding 103 classroom teachers -- 71 of those for the lower schools -- so the lower and middle school ratio would increase from 59.3 professionals per 1,000 students to 61.3 per 1,000, the same as the high school ratio.

Other staffing requests call for 19 additional positions for such jobs as art teachers and media specialists. Included in this number is a new type of instructor -- a technology teacher -- who would help bring technology into the elementary classrooms. Three such teachers have been requested.

The preliminary objectives also call for more guidance counselors and guidance paraprofessionals -- who would make the counselors' work more manageable, school Superintendent Ray R. Keech said.

These paraprofessionals "would let the counselors go back to guidance," he said. The cost for the paraprofessionals would be about $84,000.

Other budget objectives include increases in such areas as computers and curriculum development.

Currently, there are 2,336 microcomputers in use or on order for instructional use. The school system is asking for $750,000 for additional computers and to replace and upgrade the existing ones.

An increase of $470,000 is being requested for curriculum development for a total of $1.4 million.

"We are not just updating the curriculum but restructuring," said Deborah J. Heilberger, executive director of curriculum and instruction.

The focus is on meeting the criteria of the Maryland School Performance tests -- which measure basic skills in reading, writing, math and citizenship in high school -- Dr. Keech said.

One item not included in the preliminary objectives is a salary raise for teachers. That is being negotiated with the teachers' union. Each 1 percent raise could add $1 million to the proposed budget, said Donald R. Morrison, a school spokesman.

The school board will meet tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Southampton Middle School in Bel Air to review the objectives, which will be discussed again at the January board meeting before a public hearing is held later in the month. In February, the board will give final approval to a budget.

One hitch, of course, is where the money will come from.

"It's too early to talk revenue," said G. William Rufenach, executive director of finance for the Board of Education.

According to the state formula, the minimum the school system would receive in additional funding is $4.65 million. That figure could increase if the state revamps the way it computes public school funding, as is under consideration.

Then the county school system could be eligible for as much as $10 million more, Mr. Rufenach said.

Mr. Rufenach also said there has been no money projection from the county, although a "realistic" figure could be $7 million, which would be an 8 percent increase over last year.

"It won't be till January that we get clear signals from the county," he said.

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