Howard County School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey last night proposed an operating budget for next school year that would increase spending by 4.3 percent, a plan he said was not extravagant.
As requested by parents and staffers, the $213.6 million spending plan includes money for new teachers and new equipment for older schools. The proposed increase -- $8.8 million -- would be about half of this school year's increased spending.
The proposed spending plan does not include salary increases for teachers and support service personnel which are being negotiated.
"I don't think this is an extravagant budget, but it's not a lean-and-mean budget," Dr. Hickey said.
"This by no means reflects what everybody asked for; we cut a number of things out," he said.
"The primary driver again this year is growth" in enrollment, Dr. Hickey said in explaining the proposed increase to about 50 people who attended last night's school board meeting.
The current operating budget is $204.7 million.
In his proposal, Dr. Hickey asked for a $4.1 million, or 3.7 percent, increase in spending in instruction to expand the pool of teachers for overcrowded schools and for schools with special needs, such as those with a high number of students from low-income families.
The pool would grow by 18 to 40.5 positions.
Some of the proposed $112 million for instruction would also be used to hire two teachers in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, and to staff Manor Woods Elementary School in Ellicott City, slated to open next school year.
Roughly $1 million would be used to upgrade equipment, such as copiers and computers, at older schools -- a continuing request from parents concerned about equity between new and older schools.
Only about 10 schools would get new equipment. In past years, each school got a share of the funds and one or two new pieces of equipment, but "the trouble is that becomes so small it becomes transparent," Dr. Hickey said. "[We're] trying to get a more significant impact."
Dr. Hickey said that no schools have yet been selected to receive new equipment in the first year of what could become a five-year program. "We're trying to develop a good inventory of what people have and take into consideration the population of the school," he said.
The superintendent proposed a $2 million increase in health services.
The additional funding would be used to convert six existing health assistant positions to nursing positions in order to better serve students with severe medical needs; to hire two new health assistants because of increased enrollment; to staff Manor Woods; and to pay for extending the contracts of health assistants from 10 to 11 months.
Dr. Hickey asked for a $1.5 million increase in special education funding to add 61 new positions to handle increased enrollment and to pay the costs of including special education students in regular classrooms.
The superintendent requested an extra $550,000 for maintenance at older schools -- new shelf space, improved public announcement systems, repairs to lockers, new carpeting and other minor renovations.
Also last night, the school board:
* Approved asking the state for money for a study of year-round schooling despite results of a December survey of more than 600 parents that showed 45 percent of those polled disapproved of changing the school calendar. The deadline for seeking the funds is Jan. 22.
* Appointed John Morningstar principal of Manor Woods and Shelley Day assistant principal. He is principal of Hammond Elementary School and she is an elementary school resource teacher.
Mr. Morningstar will be replaced at Hammond by Stephen Zagami, an assistant principal at Forest Ridge Elementary School. Katherine Orlando, a teacher at Hammond, will replace Mr. Zagami.