Baltimore Co. school budget unveiled Proposed $641 million plan calls for 52 more teachers

January 28, 1998|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County's school superintendent proposed last night a $641 million spending plan for 1998-1999 that would add 52 teachers for enrollment growth, expand prekindergarten and full-day kindergarten programs and slightly reduce high school class sizes.

The operating budget proposal -- which calls for a modest 2 1/4 percent spending increase overall -- also would boost supervision to the county's gifted and talented program and would cover the 3 percent employee raises negotiated last winter in union contracts.

To sharpen the focus on education from prekindergarten through 12th grade, Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione proposed turning over the district's extensive adult education program to county community colleges. He said the move is likely to bring more state funding to the colleges but also increase class fees.

The budget increase requested by Marchione is far less than the percentage increases requested in other Baltimore-area suburbs. The next-smallest increase, by Carroll County's superintendent, was 6.7 percent, and the largest requested increase in the area was 12 percent by Anne Arundel's superintendent.

As in past years, Marchione divided the requested increase into two parts.

The first part -- about $9.3 million -- includes the increased county funding required by state law to pay for enrollment growth, as well as anticipated new federal and state money. All of that money will be needed just to pay for employee pay raises of 2.5 percent, said chief financial officer John M. Markowski.

The so-called supplemental budget request of $4.8 million would pay for the additional 0.5 percent negotiated salary increases. It also would be used to improve computer wiring at 10 schools and to upgrade technology in the district's financial services operations.

With so much of the budget increase tied to salaries, much of the money for Marchione's initiatives will be found by streamlining the administration, Markowski said.

As a result, only part of the 138.5 new positions proposed in the operating budget will be new hires.

But school officials said it is too early to estimate how many of the positions can be filled by people whose jobs will be eliminated elsewhere in the system. Marchione does not expect layoffs.

New or expanded initiatives proposed by Marchione include: Adding 52 teaching positions to accommodate an anticipated enrollment jump of 1,984 students, up to 107,504 students. The district also will open Westchester Elementary School in the fall, requiring the hiring of administrators, secretaries and others.

Cutting high school class size from 19.1 students per teacher to 19, with the goal of eventually moving to 18.7. The reduction requires eight more teaching positions.

Expanding early childhood programs with at least 10 new prekindergarten and full-day kindergarten teachers.

Starting a pilot program with county police to put "school resource officers" in two high schools. The school board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the plan at Ruxton Center on Feb. 9 and vote on it Feb. 24.

Pub Date: 1/28/98

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