Expected enrollment leap spurs 8.53 percent boost in proposed school budget

January 27, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

An expectation of 868 more students in Carroll County classrooms next September is the driving force behind an 8.53 percent increase in the budget proposal that school board staff unveiled yesterday.

The total request for fiscal 1994-1995 is $131 million.

Of the new money needed, the schools are asking the county for an additional $8.1 million. The rest would come from federal and state sources.

"I think, considering the enrollment, the increase we're going to have is very modest," said Ann M. Ballard, board vice president. "I was hoping to improve our staff [-to-student] ratio."

Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said the budget has some requests designed to improve the quality of schools, but most of it is to keep up with growing enrollment and to catch up on two years of no increases for inflation.

For example, it will cost just under $2 million to hire the equivalent of more than 47 new teachers; 15 new special education teachers and staff; and nine other workers to keep up with the growth, he said.

Other highlights are:

* $3.65 million for negotiated pay raises of 3 percent for all staff.

* $2.95 million to maintain the current level of employee benefits, such as health insurance, Social Security payments and other fixed costs.

* $534,316 to add eight new bus contracts to transport the increased number of students.

* $238,715 more in expected utility costs, much of which will go toward operating the new Runnymede Elementary.

* About $200,000 more than last year for textbooks, library books and classroom supplies to catch up after two years of holding back requests.

* About $100,000 for a staff development plan that would give teachers more flexibility and money to seek training or materials to improve their work.

* $100,000 to hire a firm that will place a full-time monitor at school construction sites. Mr. Shilling said he would look for a firm that would offer engineering and other technical expertise to ensure schools get their money's worth from contractors.

He said he based his request on troubles that other counties have had with contractors.

"I simply think that this would be money well-spent to monitor what we're paying for and also to keep the pressure on to get things done on a timely basis," Mr. Shilling said.

Runnymede's opening has been delayed for at least six months. Shilling and other school officials blamed severe weather conditions over the past two years.

Another new position Mr. Shilling requested is an internal auditor, similar to a staff member in county government, who would review how efficiently the schools and administration are operating. Mr. Shilling is asking $35,480 to pay for an auditor.

Carroll has 22,701 students this school year. Next year officials expect 23,569, a 3.82 percent increase with 868 new students. This year, 585 new students arrived.

The enrollment growth is expected to continue over at least the next six years as more homes go up and people move to the county, Mr. Shilling said.

"We are going to get 4,500 students over that period," Mr. Shilling said. "This is why it's [disturbing that] the state has made the kinds of cuts it has made in a growth county."

The state share of the budget has steadily decreased in areas such as transportation and Social Security payments, Mr. Shilling said. Furthermore, he said, the state reimbursement based on enrollment is always one year behind, so Carroll schools won't get money for the extra 868 students until July 1995.

When the state share goes down, schools have nowhere to go but the county to make up the money, he said.

Parents and staff will be able to register their questions and concerns with the school board by attending budget hearings and a meeting to adopt a final proposal.

The budget hearings begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be Feb. 8 at Northwest Middle School, Feb. 17 at Piney Ridge Elementary School and Feb. 24 at Friendship Valley Elementary School. At the last hearing at Friendship Valley, the board is expected to vote on adopting a budget proposal that will go to the county commissioners.

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