Another lean school budget Anne Arundel County: In spite of increase, next year's plan barely covers necessities.

February 19, 1997

UNLIKE LAST YEAR when it added about $12 million to Superintendent Carol S. Parham's budget, the Anne Arundel County Board of Education today is likely to approve her proposed $452.9 million spending plan pretty much as she presented it.

Board members might like to add millions more to pay for across-the-board raises for teachers, or catch up on needed repairs to buildings, but they know the County Council and County Executive John G. Gary would slash those additions, as they did last year.

The proposed budget for the next school year is about $28.9 million, or 6.7 percent, larger than this year's. This proposal follows two lean years. Despite the increase, the budget is far from extravagant and does not nearly address all the system's needs.

For example, the book budget calls for additional allocation of $500,000, but the system is still about $6 million behind in textbook purchases. In many schools, students will still have to share books and won't be able to take them home, a point that disturbs many parents.

An additional 120 instructional positions account for much of the increase. With 1,000 additional students expected to enroll in the 1997-98 school year, Dr. Parham is asking for 49 more classroom teachers to maintain current teacher-pupil ratios.

Also, she wants 22 more reading teachers to ensure that every elementary school has one. The cost of the new classroom and reading teachers will be $2.2 million.

The budget also includes requests for more guidance counselors and social workers to deal with discipline and in-school suspensions. Yet the system will still be short support staff, primarily secretaries.

This proposed budget channels more money toward building maintenance and upkeep. Two positions will be devoted to repairing roofs. But the department acknowledges that it won't be able to do much to shrink the backlog of repairs, which has accumulated to about $60 million worth.

Just because the school board is likely to approve this budget as proposed, it should not be assumed that this spending plan is larded with fat. At first glance, it looks more like a document that covers the necessities.

Pub Date: 2/19/97

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