School board, council make light fare of budget plan Details not discussed during 2-hour dinner

March 12, 1998|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

With a proposed $500 million budget looming over their heads, Anne Arundel County Council and school board members ordered a takeout dinner last night and spent two hours in a cozy chat session about everything from raising additional funds to their personal priorities.

The session -- held in a conference room at the school administration building in Annapolis -- began at 5 p.m. with a choice of catered chicken salad, ham and or chicken sandwiches, pickles, fruit, cheese, pasta salad and sodas.

In something like a group therapy session, school board President Carlesa R. Finney opened the meeting by asking those in attendance to introduce themselves and write their top three priorities -- personal or professional -- on index cards.

Some participants appeared a little uncomfortable.

"I didn't know this was going to be the approach," said William C. Mulford II, a councilman who had a young daughter and a pregnant wife waiting for him at home. "I thought we were going to talk about what is important to the school system."

The school board's proposed $501.5 million operating budget for the next fiscal year is $8.5 million more than Superintendent Carol S. Parham originally suggested and $67.6 million more than this year's spending plan. The board usually adds money to Parham's initial operating request, but not always so much. Last year, the board added $2 million to the superintendent's proposal.

The budget has little chance of being left uncut by the council and County Executive John G. Gary. This was one of two regularly scheduled meetings between the school board and the council. In years past, Parham presented the current issues to the council and begin a discussion of the school system's specific needs in the budget.

This year, Finney said, several board members wanted a more informal discussion in which opinions and ideas could be exchanged.

Specific issues such as the current proposed budget that is 14 percent larger than last year's, redistricting or new school construction were politely ignored.

Instead, those at the meeting talked about general issues such as the credibility of the school board with the County Council and who has the power to determine how the money is spent.

"I would like to see us build our credibility with the council and have them seek us out for information and use us as resource," Finney said, later using an analogy in which a daughter asks a father for $10 and he gives her only $7 to spend and then tells her how to spend that seven dollars.

Pub Date: 3/12/98

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