Schools weigh further cutbacks Classes for gifted, music program may be targets

January 17, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Education for the gifted, elementary school music and teacher training are among the programs that may be cut as county school officials struggle with what they say is Carroll's tightest education budget ever.

After preparing an austere $143 million 1996-1997 spending plan, school administrators acknowledged last week that they would have to trim an additional $3.3 million to match the amount the county commissioners have said they will approve.

"I can't think of anything that I have disliked more than this process," Assistant Superintendent Gary Dunkleberger said. "It's not about doing something better for kids. It's about doing less."

In addition to the list of possible program cuts announced yesterday, school officials say they almost certainly will ask teachers and other employees to forgo all or part of a 3 percent pay increase, which would save up to $2.5 million.

School officials say that the proposed $143 million spending plan is about $9 million greater than the current year's outlay, and that the additional amount is needed to pay for new bus routes and 77 new staff positions aimed at accommodating an anticipated 902 new students, along with the opening of the new Oklahoma Road Middle School in southern Carroll.

The list of cuts that could be made to produce a $3.3 million spending reduction was devised after meetings with parents, teachers and principals last fall.

"These are possibilities -- that should be italicized, bold-faced and underlined," Dr. Dunkleberger said. "We may not do all of these, and hopefully we may need to do none of them."

"I don't want to see anything go," said Joanne Tart, president of the Carrolltowne Elementary PTA and one of the parents consulted before the list was completed.

"It's not that they're trying to save money; it's that the money isn't there," Ms. Tart said. When she and other parents were asked to come up with ideas for savings, and then at a December meeting to choose from a list of possible cuts, she was at a loss, she said.

"I felt like, boy, I'm glad this is not my job," she said. But Ms. Tart said she was grateful parents had been consulted early in the process.

Included on the budget contingency list are:

* An increase in class sizes by an average of about one student per class, to save $1.2 million. Instead of building the staff based on one teacher per 25 students, it would be built on one teacher per 26 students, Dr. Dunkleberger said.

* A reduction in the Extended Enrichment Program for gifted students. The move would save $400,000, mostly by eliminating 10 teachers. Education for the gifted would be done by the classroom teacher.

* The elimination of the instrumental-music program for fourth- and fifth-graders, to save $340,000 in salaries for 10 teachers. Eliminating only the fourth-grade program would save $200,000. The program offers instruction in stringed, wind and percussion instruments to 1,120 fourth-graders and 856 fifth-graders.

* An increase in fees for community use of buildings, to raise about $20,000. Community groups now pay for the cost of a custodian to monitor and clean the building they use. The buildings are used for such things as church services and aerobics.

* Eliminating a program that reimbursed teachers for up to $150 toward a training or development activity they pursue on their own, saving $89,000. Dr. Dunkleberger said the program has been efficient and cost-effective.

* Eliminating some high school classes that have low enrollment, such as some advanced foreign-language courses, to save $175,000. Principals would have discretion on what to cut, depending on which courses in their schools drew the least interest.

* The elimination of one high-school bus route, which would save $37,000.

* A $30 charge for each student athlete, cheerleader and band member to cover the $100,000 cost of transportation to events.

* A reduction in spending for textbooks and materials at each school by an additional 10 percent, to save $545,000. Schools already are to get 10 percent less than they got two years ago.

The school board will hold public hearings Tuesday and Feb. 6 before adopting a budget proposal Feb. 14 that will go to the county commissioners.

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