Parham seeks budget increase $493 million plan asks 12 percent more for schools

January 08, 1998|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Superintendent Carol S. Parham presented a $493 million budget to the county school board yesterday, and at least some of the eight members agreed with her that a 12 percent increase over this year's budget is not asking for too much.

She probably will not get all of the money she has asked for by the time the budget winds through public hearings, a school board vote, the scrutiny of the county executive and County Council approval in the spring, but Parham was pleased with the way the first step went.

"I think it went well," she said after a board meeting at school headquarters on Riva Road in Annapolis ended yesterday. Before and during her presentation in the boardroom, she warned that the 1998-1999 school year was going to be costly.

"Be prepared to be uncomfortable," she said, reading from a five-page statement. "For you will find this year's budget request much different from requests of years past."

She meant bigger, by more than $52 million.

Parham has asked for big increases in the past, even in the face of disapproving county officials.

This year, she said, she was emboldened again to think big because of pressing needs. The cost of textbooks has doubled, she pointed out, enrollment has gone up from about 72,000 students to nearly 73,000, and running a good special education program -- which eats up more than 10 percent of the budget -- is expensive. She also wants to hire more teachers and increase midlevel administration.

"Are we to be good or are we to be great?" she asked about the state's fifth-largest school district.

The budget she has put together calls for $8.5 million to cover salaries of 291 new positions, including more than 100 teachers, a principal at the planned school in Odenton's Piney Orchard community, several principals-in-training and a handful of guidance counselors, secretaries and technicians.

Her request would add 28.8 percent to this year's budget -- about $2.8 million -- for administrative costs, including six technical staffers to handle service requests stemming from new technology in schools.

She also has recommended hiring 54 administrators, including technical support employees, paying maintenance workers better and creating more contracts with private bus companies that get students to and from school.

tTC Among smaller items the superintendent included in her budget are:

$100,000 for software modifications that would allow system computers to recognize the four-digit change in date from 1999 to 2000.

$22,000 a year for a full-time mover because county schools make about 1,000 moves each year as new schools are opened, renovated or closed.

$900,000 to replace lockers.

School board members, who will discuss her budget ideas in more detail later, were generally supportive of Parham's recommendations.

"We will all undoubtedly take a close look at this budget, but in principle it does a good job of hitting all targets," said Vaughn Brown, a new board member working on his first budget.

Between now and Feb. 18, the school board will modify Parham's budget and, if last year is any indication, try to slash it before sending it along to the county executive and council, which also may make cuts.

Paul Rudolph, one of the more economy-minded board members, said, "I think it behooves us" to be conservative.

Parham, noting the county has a budget surplus, told the board, "I certainly think we should step up and ask for our share."

Board member Janet Bury commended the budget as realistic but disagreed with Parham's claim that the county's schools could go from good to great with passage of her budget.

Because some schools are crowded and others have facilities problems, "we're not good yet," Bury said. "We're not OK, and we need this money to become OK before moving on to excellent."

Pub Date: 1/08/98

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