State to give schools less than was pledged

March 02, 1995|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

Maryland is going to give the Anne Arundel County schools $1 million less than promised this year, pushing the Board of Education budget further into the red.

"The shortfall was about $2.8 million, and now it's $3.8 million," Greg Nourse, the school system's financial director, told school board members at a meeting yesterday. "The state is also taking back another $500,000 from fiscal 1994."

The money would have reimbursed the school system for sending handicapped students to private schools, something done when local services can't meet students' needs.

The state's repayment is based on a complicated formula. In some years, the schools receive slightly less than the original estimates.

Now, though, the state is planning to spend some of that money on a governor's program for "prevention and early intervention."

The board's own spending plan in the past five months had already caused concern among county auditors and County Council members.

Last month, Ronald L. Beckett, associate superintendent for support services, blamed the council in part for the initial shortfall projections.

He pointed out that the council took an extra $1.6 million from the board's budget for wages and salaries, figuring money would be recovered when employees departed and their positions were left vacant or filled by people who earned less.

Mr. Nourse said the school system has set aside $1 million to cover this year's projected deficit and is using $1.7 million from unappropriated funds, money the council has not yet given school officials approval to spend. To make up for the state's reclaiming $500,000 from the 1994 fiscal year, the school system will use money from "encumbrances" for that fiscal year, Mr. Nourse said.

An encumbrance is an accounting term used to indicate that money is owed for a service or a purchase. That money is set aside to be used when payment is due. Until that time, the money is considered encumbered, or spoken for.

"We carry encumbrances on the books for a year," said James Goodwyn, the school system's lead budget analyst. "But if we didn't receive the service, or we never got the bill . . . and [the money] hasn't been spent, then the money can be freed up."

Mr. Nourse said the school system anticipated a loss of state funds for the 1996 fiscal year and allowed for that in creating the budget sent to the county executive yesterday.

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