A tighter school budget

Carroll County: Commissioners are right to approve education spending by category.

May 09, 2000

THERE'S always a danger of micromanaging, but the idea to approve the county school budget by categories is a good one. Particularly at a time when the school system is under a cloud of public skepticism for its money management and its liberal shifting of funds from one project to another.

School board member Susan Krebs says the board has switched about $1 million of teaching funds into other categories in the past 18 months. That's disturbing, because teaching is the five-member board's top priority.

The commissioners' decision should put the school board on notice that the county budget allocation is not a pot of money to be used at will.

It's a stronger, more effective message than withholding a million dollars from the total school budget, as was done last year to prod the board into moving ahead with a performance audit.

The commissioners suggest that the category budget was not prompted by recent disclosures of mismanagement in the school finance system.

That may be more diplomacy than accuracy, but the hope is that the category budget plan will prove effective without unnecessarily hobbling the administration of the school system.

Otherwise, the school budget process is much the same.

The independently elected board has asked for $3.5 million more than the commissioners will give; it will get nearly half the $205 million pie.

That's too bad because the school population is still increasing and there's clear need for more instructors to reduce classroom crowding. Carroll is near the bottom of 24 state districts in the ratio of teachers per students.

Admittedly, teachers will get a 4 percent pay increase (part of a statewide program) but that budget increase doesn't buy any more classroom instructors.

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