Harford parents ask executive for more

February 20, 1994|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Sun Staff Writer

Harford County parents want more for their children: more teachers, more technology and more money spent on school buildings.

Courteous and polite, about 140 people attended a budget hearing with County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann at the Fallston Volunteer Fire Company.

About 25 people who spoke all asked for more money for children, either for the schools or for the parks and recreation budget.

"We appreciate what you've done for us in the past, but we need more," said Rick Daub, president of the PTA at Havre de Grace Elementary.

He asked Mrs. Rehrmann to fully fund the county's share of the school system's $186.2 million operating budget for fiscal 1995. The county's share would be up $19 million on fiscal 1994.

Mr. Daub said it's unfair to pit the school system against other county departments, such as health or parks and recreation, for funds. "Let's not rob Peter to pay Paul," he said.

If Mrs. Rehrmann does not fully fund the school budget, parents and school officials can petition the County Council for more money.

But if the school system gets more, that means other departments will get less. Education is the only budget the council cannot cut, and it's also the only budget to which it can add money.

Mrs. Rehrmann has until April 1 to create a county budget. That budget then goes to the council, which has until May 31 to pass it.

The fiscal 1994 county budget, which went into effect July 1, is about $163 million, up from $148.2 million for fiscal 1993.

The school system's budget will face tough scrutiny from some council members.

Councilman Robert S. Wagner, R-District E, said earlier that he was appalled by the requested $19 million increase.

"Before the school system starts asking for the sky, I'd like to see what they have done to spend their money better. My first thought is what have they been doing to squeeze the dollars they are already getting," Mr. Wagner said.

"The school budget takes a big chunk of our tax dollars, and we owe it to everybody to scrutinize that budget carefully," he said.

Mr. Wagner said he was doubtful that he would support taking money from other parts of the budget to give to the schools.

The school board at its meeting Monday night passed a $186.2 million operating budget.

The county would be expected to provide $106.1 million of that. In fiscal 1994, the county's share of the school system's $165.3 million operating budget is $87 million.

In fiscal 1993, the school board asked the county for about $91.4 million, but got $87 million, which included a record $11 million increase.

The boost, however, was deceptive because it included $5.6 million for Social Security benefits for teachers and other employees. Previously, the state had paid those benefits.

Typically, about 55 percent of the school system's budget has come from the county -- making it the county's single largest budget item.

For fiscal 1995, the school system believes it can count on about $76 million from the state and about $3.3 million from the federal government.

The balance comes from revenue sources like gate receipts at sporting events.

The budget, which school board members cut by $2 million from School Superintendent Ray R. Keech's proposal, includes money to hire 71 additional teachers.

It also includes 3 percent across-the-board raises for the school system's 3,500 employees, including 2,200 teachers. Employees who have worked for the school system for 15 years or less qualify for step raises.

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