Schools seek $15 million budget increase

Hyde's plan includes money for supplies, staff at new facilities

January 13, 2000|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,SUN STAFF

Pushing an array of initiatives and pledging to put more teachers and textbooks in the classroom, Superintendent William H. Hyde proposed yesterday a $15 million increase in spending next fiscal year -- if approved, the biggest jump since 1991.

Hyde's proposed 2000- 2001 operating budget, presented to the school board during its monthly meeting, calls for $184.6 million in funding for the fiscal year that begins July 1. It reflects an 8.9 percent increase -- about $15 million -- from this year's $169.5 million budget and would require the county to raise its school funding by $8.7 million.

A large chunk of the extra money -- about $1.7 million -- would be spent to staff and purchase supplies for Shiloh Middle School, slated to open in the fall in Hampstead, and for Century High School, expected to open in 2001 in South Carroll. Without those extra dollars, the facilities could drain resources from elsewhere, said board member Susan W. Krebs.

"These are costs of opening new schools that are desperately needed," Krebs said. "We need to separate the true increase in the budget from these costs, which are absolutely necessary."

The operating budget, which covers everything from salaries and wages to the purchase of textbooks and supplies, is funded by the county as well as by state and federal government sources. It is distinct from the school system's capital improvement budget, which covers the construction and renovation of facilities.

The public will have the opportunity to comment on Hyde's proposed spending plan during hearings this month and next month. The school board can make changes, then will adopt a proposal next month. The county commissioners can amend the spending plan before formally approving it in the spring.

Last year, school officials were forced to slash $4 million from the budget after the county refused to pay $2.8 million of its requested share and $1.2 million in state money didn't materialize.

Create 115 positions

The budget proposed yesterday would create about 115 staff positions in the school system for $3.4 million. That includes about 58 teacher positions under an array of initiatives, such as creating 5.5 teaching positions to reduce high school class sizes and hiring four instructors to increase teacher planning time in elementary schools. Another 18 positions would be created in the special education department.

Nineteen of the remaining new positions, which would cost $494,000, are in midlevel administration. Vernon F. Smith, assistant superintendent for administration, stressed that the majority of those positions are for secretaries and clerks in schools.

"We believe they directly relate to the area of instruction and directly relate to what teachers do in the classroom," Smith said.

The other positions range from nurses to maintenance workers.

Hyde's plan also calls for $180,000 for new textbooks and supplies in middle and high schools; $45,000 to purchase school security cameras; and $142,000 to fund several initiatives in the Continuous Improvement Department, including leadership development and a new computer program that would allow the central office to create a detailed profile of every student.

Administrators stressed the $15 million proposed budget increase could be misleading. Nearly $1 million is the value of an in-kind contribution from the county to let the school system use space in a new warehouse the county owns.

About $1 million of the increase would cover rising medical insurance costs -- mostly higher prescription rates, officials said.

Settlement approved

In other business yesterday:

The school board voted, 4-1, to formally approve a settlement in a defamation lawsuit brought against school officials by Towson contractor James W. Ancel. The contractor, who was hired to build Cranberry Station Elementary but was removed from the project after disagreements with the school system, will receive $60,000 from the school system's insurance company.

Board member Ann Ballard voted against the settlement. She complained that the deal was made after school officials were questioned by lawyers but before Ancel and his colleagues were deposed.

"Our whole case is out there hanging, and when it's time to put their laundry out, it's OK, let's settle," Ballard said. "This was a black eye on the school board. And nothing has been resolved."

Ancel said he settled because the case was becoming expensive and he wanted to be able to testify with no appearance of personal benefit in front of a grand jury investigating the school system.

New officers

The board elected officers. C. Scott Stone replaces Gary W. Bauer as board president and Joseph D. Mish Jr. replaces Ballard as vice president.

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