The Howard County school board indicated yesterday it will reduce the amount it had planned to spend this fall to hire elementary school lunch and recess monitors and to buy library books for older schools.
The indication of the cuts came during a work session yesterday morning in which the school board trimmed about $1.3 million from its $254.7 million operating budget request for 1997-1998.
The board reduced its request after the Howard County Council essentially rejected the board's plea last week to add money to the level of education spending proposed by County Executive Charles I. Ecker.
While yesterday's actions only required reductions to such broad categories as instructional materials and midlevel administration, board members identified several line items they plan to cut when they approve a final version of the 1997-1998 operating budget May 30.
"Cuts inherently carry pain with them," said board member Stephen Bounds, as the board spent three hours debating how to trim 0.5 percent of its budget. "We're trying to find the least painful cuts. There isn't anything in here we don't need."
One of the most painful cuts -- if it is approved by the board -- would be the reduction in spending on elementary lunch and recess monitors.
The monitors are included in the 1997-1998 spending plan because Howard elementary teachers are no longer required to supervise lunch and recess -- a concession made by the school system in the 1996-1997 teachers' contract in lieu of giving teachers much of a pay increase.
Eliminating that duty for elementary teachers gives them more planning time.
But with teachers not supervising lunch and recess this year, many Howard elementary schools have been forced to assign instructional assistants to cafeterias and playgrounds -- reducing the amount of time these assistants can spend giving children small-group instruction.
All this school year, school officials have been promising elementary schools that money will be available next fall for what amounts to 10 hours of daily lunch and recess supervision per school -- a cost pegged at $441,000 for the entire school system.
"I think this would be one of the most demoralizing cuts we could make," Howard school Superintendent Michael E. Hickey warned board members. "This would be one of the last [cuts] on my list."
But board members decided to cut $200,000 from the category that includes the lunch and recess monitors -- midlevel administration -- and as much as $100,000 of the cut is all but sure to come from the $441,000 set aside for monitors.
Another $100,000 of the cut in midlevel administration would come from a one-year postponement in plans to upgrade the computer networks in a dozen elementary schools.
Other cuts made yesterday by the board include:
* $95,000 from the instructional materials category, which likely would come from funds to buy library books for older schools that have smaller collections. The $95,000 originally had been intended to buy library books for new schools opening this fall and in 1998, but school officials had shifted that money to upgrade older libraries instead.
The $95,000 from the library books for new schools represents a 7 percent cut in their collections -- ensuring that the new schools' libraries will be the size of the average county school library, thereby falling short of the state's recommended minimum size for their collections.
* $100,000 from maintenance of school buildings. "What it means is some scheduled and much-needed things will be deferred that much more," said Associate Superintendent Sydney Cousin, who did not name specific projects that would be affected.
* $903,000 from fixed charges, all of which would reduce the school system's contribution to its health and dental self-insurance fund. The balance in the fund -- which carries over from one year to the next -- is greater than necessary, according to school system budget officer David White, giving the board a one-time savings.
Pub Date: 5/20/97