If the Harford school system manages to coax the state and county into fully funding its proposed $185 million operating budget, it will have only $102 more to spend on each student next year.
Andre A. Fournier, president of Harford County Council of PTAs, said PTA members should not be surprised by the $21 million increase the school system is seeking.
He said Harford ranks 14th in wealth -- which includes property and other taxes -- but is 21st in per pupil spending of the state's 24 subdivisions. Harford currently spends about $5,000 per student per year.
"The school system needs this money and to get it they need our support," Mr. Fournier said during a recent PTA council meeting at Southampton Middle School in Bel Air.
He asked the PTAs to lobby County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann and the County Council, as well as state delegates and other officials.
About 60 PTA officers from county schools attended the meeting. The PTA council has a membership of about 15,000.
For the first time, PTA officials are part of the school system's budget deliberations from the beginning of the process, Mr. Fournier said.
He said Ray R. Keech, school superintendent, has included PTA members in budget discussions and kept them informed of changes as they are made.
"In the past, the PTA has simply been a bystander. This year we are part of the system," Mr. Fournier said.
The proposed budget, for the school year which begins July 1, is 12 percent ($21 million) more than this year's operating budget of $164 million.
The proposed budget includes $3 million for a 3 percent pay increase and step increase for the school system's 3,500 employees.
The pay increase must still be ratified by the four school employee unions and the school board.
Albert F. Seymour, deputy superintendent of schools, said at the PTA meeting that the proposed budget would fund, among other things, about 167 new teaching positions and 14 new buses.
The teachers would be assigned to two schools, Church Creek Elementary in Belcamp and Emmorton Elementary in Bel Air, which are expected to open in September.
The new teachers would also reduce class sizes in elementary and secondary schools, Mr. Seymour said.
The county's share of the proposed school budget would be about $105 million -- about $18 million more than this year's $87 million.
The school system is anticipating $75.9 million from the state and $3.3 million from the federal government.
The rest of the funds come from miscellaneous fees such as gate receipts at interscholastic events.
The school board has already cut more than $750,000 from the proposed school budget and has asked the school system to find another $1.3 million in cuts, said school board Vice President Ronald Eaton.
The board is expected to approve a final budget at its meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. tomorrow at Southampton Middle School in Bel Air.
Mr. Eaton said he expects that the board will have to cut the budget again, by at least $4 million.
"I don't think the county will be able to give us all the money we are asking for," he said.
However, Mr. Eaton said the school board has a responsibility to ask for the money it needs.
He said a recent survey completed by 10,000 residents showed that the public wants the schools to offer much more, such as state-of-the-art computer technology to prepare students for the work force.
But he said he's not sure how much taxpayers are willing to pay. Another finding of the survey, he said, is that many residents don't believe the school system manages its money as well as it could.
The school board has already trimmed the school system's budget by $750,000 and asked the school officials to find another $1.2 million in cuts.