Baltimore schools scramble to cover budget shortfall

March 24, 1996|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's public schools, told to carve $30 per student from their budgets to help close a deficit, are scrambling to replenish their coffers selling Easter candy to pay for math books, postponing repairs and tapping local businesses for contributions.

Late last month, administrators ordered the city's 183 public schools to revise their budgets and return a total of $2.7 million. That demand came with only three months of school remaining and after many schools had spent most of their allocations for the academic year.

"It's past being angry. It's 'What else can they do to us?' " said Dr. Jacqueline Waters-Scofield, principal of Mount Washington Elementary School. "It's frustrating to see the priority education has in the eyes of federal, state and local people who have the purse strings."

Most schools cut from instructional supplies and equipment. Some also proposed laying off teachers and staff, which administrators say they may not allow.

"Everyone is objecting. It's tough to come up with that much money any time in the budget year," said Sheila Kolman, an administrator who helps schools manage budgets.

Frustrated principals say they now monitor every piece of paper used. One school that wanted to buy advanced fractions textbooks turned to money earned from selling Easter candy and trinkets.

School administrators began discussing the cuts last month. They decided the most equitable approach would be based on enrollment rather than the amount of money each school had remaining in its 1996 budget, said Henry J. Raymond, chief financial officer for the school system.

tTC His staff is reviewing the cuts to see if they are realistic, he said. Only two or three schools asked to be exempt because they cannot afford them, he said.

School officials have been trying to balance this year's budget since last spring, when they realized it would come up short by $30 million. The shortfall stems partly from raises promised teachers during the last mayoral election.

In addition, the legislature froze $5.9 million of expected budget revenue when the school system failed to make management improvements recommended by a consultant.

Pub Date: 3/24/96

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