More money sought for schools

January 15, 1995|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

The superintendent of schools' wish list for fiscal year 1995-1996 now has a price tag -- $202.2 million, an increase of 13.9 percent, or $24.7 million, more than this year.

Dr. Ray R. Keech presented the operating budget to the school board last week, saying he realized the economic climate was restrained.

"We won't have a pity party" if the school system doesn't get all the money it requests, he said. "We will make maximum use of the dollars we have and get results in the academic achievement of our students no matter how much money we have."

The proposed budget includes money for 96 additional classroom teachers for the projected enrollment of 37,239 students next fall -- 1,276 students more than this year.

The 40 elementary and 28 middle school teachers would just slightly improve classroom sizes, said Deputy Superintendent Albert F. Seymour, who explained the budget to board members. The 28 additional high school teachers would maintain the current ratio of 65.5 teachers per 1,000 students.

School policy calls for 20 students in prekindergarten and kindergarten classes, 23 in first and second grades, 25 in grades three through five and 30 in middle and high school classes.

The proposed budget does not include teacher contract raises, which still are being negotiated, but it does include step raises for employees who qualify.

Dr. Keech also gave copies of the budget to County Council members at a joint meeting Thursday. "I believe it is conservative. . . . We need additional buses, textbooks, teaching supplies and teachers to help class size," he explained. "Class size is a priority for you, I know, and for us."

The county's share of the proposed school budget would be about $118 million -- $21 million more than this year's $97 million.

The school system is anticipating $80 million from the state and $3.4 million from the federal government. The rest of the money comes from miscellaneous fees, such as gate receipts at interscholastic events.

Board members will have a public work session on the budget Jan. 23.

"It's a significant increase," said school board member George D. Lisby. "It's going to be much more than we're going to get. We need to prioritize. We need [parental] input."

The board will vote on its final budget request Feb. 13, then send it to County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann.

County Councilman Robert S. Wagner, R-District E, made one request of Dr. Keech and the school board: "Give us a true priority list from 1 to 10, so we can see right up front these are the things we need to have."

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