The Howard County school board yesterday approved a $228.2 million budget to operate the schools next fall, $1.6 million less than in Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's request.
The board did not make significant cuts from Dr. Hickey's proposal but was able to trim $2.2 million from a self-financed health insurance program for school system employees. That cut won't affect school employees' benefits, school officials said.
The board's proposal will be sent next month to the county government for approval. County Executive Charles I. Ecker and County Council members already have warned the board to expect further budget cuts.
Now, the school budget does not include money for pay raises for teachers, secretaries, clerks and maintenance workers. School officials say they hope to complete contract negotiations with employee unions by early next month. A 1 percent pay raise for all school employees means a $1.6 million addition to the budget proposal.
In approving the budget, the board added several new positions and left intact all of Dr. Hickey's new initiatives for fall, including programs to help middle-schoolers in math, under-achieving black students and non-English-speaking students.
Other new initiatives deal with buying new textbooks, expanding a pool of teachers to staff schools with unexpectedly higher enrollments and increasing the number of teachers and assistants who work with special education students mainstreamed into regular classrooms.
Board members said they fashioned a budget as best they could without sacrificing the education of students.
"I think this is a very responsible budget," said board Chairwoman Susan Cook. "I think we have addressed the needs of the system by the positions we've added. I feel they were very necessary positions. The students are our top priority."
But board members also spoke of cuts they might have to make in the likely event that county government does not fully finance their request.
Board member Karen Campbell spoke of eliminating bus transportation for parochial school students. But board member Stephen Bounds was the most vocal.
Saying he was giving "fair warning," Mr. Bounds proposed eliminating five instructional assistant positions at Wilde Lake High School. He also spoke of cutting back on conferences, meetings and workshops for school employees, which would save more than $1 million.
He also proposed cutting paying for medical expenses of bus drivers, who are contractual employees of the school system, and trimming an academic monitor program to help boost black students' school performance.
Of the academic monitor program -- part of the Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP) -- Mr. Bounds said he wants evidence that it's effective in helping students do better in school. "I don't have this information and am certainly not willing to support it at this time," he said.
But Ms. Cook vowed to expand the program. "I tell you now I will fight you" to retain an additional $50,000 in the budget to expand the academic monitoring part of the BSAP program, she said.
Under the board's proposal, the county would finance $169.2 million of the budget. The state would contribute $55.7 million and other sources would chip in $3 million.
In approving the budget, the board:
* Added four high school guidance counselor positions at a cost of $124,000. Board members said they wanted to add personnel to help deal with redistricting changes expected to take place in fall 1996 with the opening of two new schools. "With all the changes coming into place, I believe guidance is a critical area," said Sandra French, board vice chairwoman.
* Saved $124,000 by eliminating four teaching positions at the School of Technology, which has declining student enrollment. The school is to close in 1996 for extensive renovations to turn it lTC into an applied research laboratory under the county's new technology magnet program.
* Added a position to work on improving students' attendance. Board members noted that there has been no addition to the corps of pupil personnel workers, although the number of students has increased by 4,000 in the past several years.
* Added a psychologist position at a cost of $47,000. "We really need to make a move in adding to this area as the county grows and the needs of the students become greater and greater," said Linda Johnston, board member. Board members particularly were interested in making sure that there would be a half-time psychologist at Stevens Forest Elementary School, which has been identified as a site of a program for seriously emotionally disturbed children.
* Added $317,600 to increase the pay of substitute teachers to $65 a day, from $57. Substitute teachers have not received raises since 1991.