School budget increase of 7.2% sought Hickey seeks funds to achieve reforms, add 232 to staff

School board cheers

Operating proposal for 1998-1999 is $271.5 million

January 07, 1998|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

An article earlier this month in the Howard County edition of The Sun incorrectly reported two items in the Howard County Department of Education's proposed operating budget for fiscal year 1998-1999.

The department has set aside $120,000 to improve health services in schools. The proposed budget does not represent the largest dollar increase ever requested in school operating budgets.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Howard County Superintendent Michael E. Hickey proposed yesterday increasing school spending by 7.2 percent to implement long-awaited reforms and add more than 230 staff members to keep pace with growth.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The proposed 1998-1999 operating budget, which Hickey released yesterday, earmarks more than $3 million of the almost $18.2 million increase for 10 so-called critical areas Hickey highlighted for improvement, including disruptive student behavior, middle school reforms and reading.

Hickey's $271.5 million proposal, which must be approved by the school board before going to the County Council, calls for the largest dollar increase ever requested in a school budget. The 7.2 percent growth is the biggest requested since the 7.4 percent increase called for in the 1994-1995 school year.

Hickey said the increase is needed because for years the operating budget has done little more than keep pace with the school system's growth.

"But it doesn't provide for the ongoing needs of students already in the system," he said. "We've had to meet these needs in recent years through finding money in the budget, and this has created an erosion effect. My feeling is now we must reverse this trend."

He noted as examples of deteriorating school services such things as slower replacement of textbooks and scrimping on such things as photocopying paper.

"I think the county deserves a lot of credit for carefully steering citizens of the county through a difficult financial time, but it is not without cost," Hickey said.

School board member Sandra French said, "I read this budget, and I was saying, 'Hooray, it's time to get back to the way Howard County education used to be funded. It's been far too long.' "

Under Hickey's plan, two assistant principals and 89 teachers -- 33 for special education -- would be hired.

More than $1 million would be used to upgrade technology for Internet and intranet services, phone lines and hardware in county schools.

More than $4 million of the budget increase would go for 232 new teachers, principals, janitors and other staff members needed for new schools and the 1,020 students expected to be added to the 40,010-student system in the fall.

The budget specifies funding for program improvement initiatives -- efforts to address issues that have surfaced in recent years beyond merely keeping pace with enrollment. These include increases of more than $176,000 to expand health services, more than $200,000 to help low-achieving students and more than $100,000 for staff increases to maintain aging school buildings, many of which are more than 25 years old.

The proposal also calls for funding for the second year of improvements in county middle schools, including a $110,000 focus on reading and $50,000 for a new report card system. The changes, approved by the school board last month, are the first to be implemented in response to a lengthy evaluation of county middle schools by a citizen's committee and professional consultants.

Also included in the budget proposal are efforts to stem increasing problems caused by disruptive students. Last year, the board approved Hickey's Disruptive Youth Initiative, and the proposed budget sets aside $460,000 for disciplinary rooms in some middle and high schools. Also included are pilot programs for elementary-age disruptive students.

The final budget could be bigger because, as is typical of proposed operating budgets, Hickey's figure does not include staff salary increases, which have not been worked out with the teachers union.

Hickey said Howard school salaries, once among the highest in the Baltimore region, now trail those in other jurisdictions.

Other proposed increases include:

More than $150,000 for equipment and transportation to expand the technology magnet program to a third school, Oakland Mills High.

Funding for supplies and equipment for two elementary schools to open in the fall and two middle schools to open in the fall of 1999.

Hiring three health assistants to join the three hired last year as part of a new cluster health care program.

The proposal seeks to finance the budget increases with $13.5 million in county funds and $4.6 million more in state money.

The operating budget includes teacher and administrative salaries, supplies, transportation and other in-school costs. It supplements the schools' capital budget, which covers construction, renovation and upgrading of facilities.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Feb. 3 and school board work sessions for Feb. 10, 12 and 17.

Proposed Howard school budget

Area ............... Fiscal '98 ...... Fiscal '99 .... % increase

Administration ..... $3,693,900 ...... $4,009,750 ...... 8.6

Instructional ..... 121,164,550 ..... 124,822,160 ...... 3.0

Pupil services ........ 932,910 ....... 1,157,850 ...... 24.1

Health services ..... 1,637,460 ....... 1,813,800 ...... 10.8

Transportation ..... 14,577,160 ...... 16,730,910 ...... 14.8

Plant operation .... 18,549,400 ...... 19,587,580 ....... 5.6

Plant maint. ........ 8,121,600 ....... 9,754,950 ...... 20.1

Fixed charges ...... 32,289,630 ...... 37,939,550 ...... 17.5

Midlevel admin. .... 22,066,010 ...... 23,467,460 ....... 6.4

Community services .. 2,425,850 ....... 2,855,670 ...... 17.7

Capital outlay ........ 264,830 ......... 306,060 ...... 15.6

Special education .. 27,658,070 ...... 29,091,450 ....... 5.2

Total ............. 253,381,370 ..... 271,537,190 ....... 7.2

Pub Date: 1/07/98

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