Schmoke relaxes insistence on EAI cuts

November 08, 1995|By JoAnna Daemmrich and Jim Bock | JoAnna Daemmrich and Jim Bock,SUN STAFF

After insisting for two weeks that the city would slash $10 million -- or one-fourth -- of this year's budget for Education Alternatives Inc., Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke softened his stance yesterday, saying there "has to be a little more flexibility than what we had originally proposed."

The mayor did not attend a seven-hour negotiating session yesterday among aides to Superintendent Walter G. Amprey and officials of the company managing nine Baltimore schools.

But, he said, "The whole idea was to figure out how to keep them through this academic year, but find some reductions."

"We're trying to reach a final number with them on how much they will contribute to the deficit reduction plan, and then [Superintendent Walter G.] Amprey will submit a final plan Friday afternoon."

The mayor had participated in a negotiation session with EAI on Friday evening, but neither he nor John Golle, EAI's chief, was present yesterday.

No deal emerged from yesterday's session at North Avenue school headquarters. Dr. Amprey said he took part in only a small part of the meeting.

Ramon Harris, who manages EAI's Baltimore operation, said the negotiators had "a good dialogue." He offered no details and said he expected the talks to continue.

Henry Raymond, the school system's chief financial officer, led the city team. No representative from the mayor's office participated, Dr. Amprey said.

The superintendent would say only that the meeting was in two parts: exploration of new ideas, and renegotiation of the $44 million contract itself. The city has demanded that EAI accept $10 million less this school year for managing the nine schools and consulting at three others.

Asked about EAI's offer to come up with spending reductions for the entire school system, Mr. Schmoke said Mr. Raymond planned to respond and negotiate a final number.

"Some of the ideas were specific, and some were generic and could have been applied to school systems anywhere," the mayor said. "I thought it was appropriate for them to give us the ideas, but I did not want to give them the impression that it would avoid their responsibility for reducing costs in their schools."

Dr. Amprey said that despite the $32 million expected budget shortfall -- about 5 percent of the school system's $647 million budget -- he did not regret a 5 percent raise given to teachers this year.

"You can almost blame [the shortfall] on anything," he said. "You don't have enough money to operate a big-city school system the way we should. It's as simple as that. You can talk about management, but the bottom line is we don't have enough money."

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