Teachers may be fewer next year Expecting enrollment to fall, city plans to cut 118 positions

April 18, 1996|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,SUN STAFF

Anticipating a steep drop in enrollment next school year, Baltimore school officials plan to cut 118 teaching positions and scale back nonessential school programs.

The city's proposed 1997 school operating budget is based on an estimated enrollment of about 105,240 students, 4,740 less than this year, school and city officials said yesterday.

Falling enrollment, attributed in part to the city's declining population, will be costly to city schools because it affects the state's per-pupil contribution.

The decline is the first anticipated by school budget planners in at least three years.

Because enrollment is not expected to grow, the budget isn't growing much either.

At $532 million, the proposed 1997 school operating budget allocates about $1 million more than this year's, said Henry Raymond, the schools' chief financial officer. The total school budget would be $650 million.

The small increase comes from anticipated federal grants, Mr. Raymond said. Although the mayor has recommended a tax increase for city residents, none of that revenue is earmarked for the school system. Education is to receive no more from the city in 1997 than the $195 million it got this year.

"We knew the budget would stay flat, but we were lucky it didn't drop," Superintendent Walter G. Amprey said. "Last year was rough; this year is projected to be rougher. We are now at a point where we have to be as creative and resourceful as we can."

Several professional-development programs and others that are not directly tied to classroom activity can't be expanded, and some will be scaled back next year because the budget is growing so little, he said.

Departments have proposed a number of programs that might not be funded, he said.

The school board has asked that safety and alternative education programs be preserved.

Teaching positions would be eliminated, Mr. Raymond confirmed, although it was not clear yesterday how many of those positions will become vacant.

Part of the problem, he said, is that school system expenses -- primarily salaries -- will grow, even though revenue might not. Teachers won a 5 percent raise for this year, and other unions won increases. Covering those raises will mean cutting other areas.

In addition, the school system might have to cut $12 million withheld by state lawmakers this month. For now, that money is in the schools' budget but is considered untouchable until a city dispute with the state over school funding is resolved.

The city Board of Estimates is reviewing the budget. It goes next to the City Council.

If enrollment declines by 4,740 students next school year, as projected, Baltimore will have lost enough students to fill half a dozen average-size middle schools.

"If it has dropped that much, then we've got some things to look at," said Dr. Amprey, who was in Wichita, Kan., at a conference. "There have always been issues with the state about the student count, not just in Baltimore, but also in other jurisdictions. We've always argued those back and forth. I think we projected over the years a drop in enrollment."

The superintendent's budget proposal projected enrollment increases of 2,200 in 1994 and 1,100 in 1995. He requested 91 new teachers in 1994 and 50 the next year. But when the city did its count for the state in September, it reported not 1,100 more students than in 1994, but a decline of 3,448.

State auditors are reviewing Baltimore's 1995-1996 enrollment, reported in September as 109,980.

Several sources familiar with the Baltimore school records said the city's problems have been in recordkeeping and in methods used to calculate enrollment.

Pub Date: 4/18/96

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