Describing his spending plan for next year as a balancing act, Howard County schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey formally presented his proposal for a 4.9 percent budget increase for 1997-98 to the school board last night.
The $251.9 million plan -- which proposes hiring 238 new teachers and staff members and adding money for new textbooks and library books -- received general, albeit brief, praise from board members.
In his 40-minute presentation, Hickey said the budget decisions reflect an attempt to strike a "reasonable balance" among a number of competing factors. They include "educational needs and educational wants"; demands for services today and anticipated future needs; "political viability and educational necessity"; the interests of special groups and those of the general population; and whether it's better to "pay now or pay later."
In particular, Hickey said his proposal to ask the county to increase its share of education funding by $6.4 million -- the minimum required by state law to pay for enrollment increases -- "recognizes the political limitations that we have in the county."
Hickey said he hopes the board will ask the county for more money this winter after the school system negotiates employee salary increases.
As board members gave their initial reactions to the budget plan last night, its tight limits on administrative expenses were singled out for praise.
"Administrative expenses are not what the public sometimes thinks they are -- they are a very small percentage of the pie," said member Stephen Bounds. "The portions of the pie that directly support the staff and students and schools are almost the whole pie."
Board Chairwoman Sandra French added that the budget category "midlevel administration" -- a category created last year by the state legislature -- reflects expenses essential to instruction, such as teacher training and school clerical services.
"Before someone locally starts looking at midlevel administration and says it's just administration, they should look more carefully," French said.
The board will hear public testimony on Hickey's budget proposal Feb. 6 and hold three work sessions before submitting its spending plan to County Executive Charles I. Ecker Feb. 25.
Ecker and the County Council will approve the final county budget -- including the broad limits for education spending -- by late May. The school board then will adopt the final version of its 1997-98 budget May 30, within the parameters set by the county budget.
Pub Date: 1/08/97