Harford Co. school board approves lean budget Plan calls for smallest increase in 25 years

January 18, 1996|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,SUN STAFF

Harford County's school board approved a $195.9 million operating budget last night for the next school year -- a bare-bones plan that does little more than maintain current class sizes and add enough teachers for an expected 1,000 new students.

The spending plan, which now goes to County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann and the County Council, represents a 5.8 percent increase over the current $185 million budget -- the smallest increase in at least 25 years.

The 1996-1997 budget, which was approved unanimously, includes about $3.6 million for a 3 percent across-the-board raise for the system's 2,400 teachers.

In response to heavy lobbying from parents, school board members eliminated three proposed supervisory positions and cut other costs to allocate about $360,000 to hire nine elementary teachers for an enrichment program.

The new teachers will allow at least a part-time enrichment program in all 31 elementary schools. The program now is available in only a dozen schools.

Board members increased the original budget proposed by Superintendent Ray R. Keech by $232,000 to expand a reading program for the county's poorest children from 11 schools to 14.

Dr. Keech had advised school board members and parents that budget increases had to be kept to a minimum because Mrs. Rehrmann said money would continue to be tight.

That outraged some parents who had asked the board for money for a range of needs -- from basic repairs for bathroom doors and new tile floors to more computers.

About a dozen parents and teachers asked the school board to allocate more money for special education.

The county ended fiscal 1995 on June 30 with a $19.5 million surplus. However, Mrs. Rehrmann said the money -- with the exception of a "rainy day fund" of about $8.7 million -- already was designated for expenses such as opening the county's first police substation in Edgewood.

"This is one-time-only money and it can't be used to pay for ongoing costs like more teachers," said county spokesman George Harrison.

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