Mayor derails school proposal

Plan that omitted Spring Garden `core facilities' rejected

Board ponders budget

May 31, 2000|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Hampstead Mayor Christopher M. Nevin announced last night that he will not sign off on plans to build an addition at Spring Garden Elementary School. The decision effectively cancels Carroll County's proposal to add classrooms to the overcrowded school without expanding the school's cafeteria, library and other common areas.

Although town officials approved the project a year ago, Nevin froze the project last month as school officials sought to begin construction. The school was built for 600 pupils, though 755 attend.

"Our children's education will suffer if the facility is made larger and the core facilities are not enlarged to accommodate that," Nevin told the school board. "There is no guarantee that those eight portables will permanently go away, and I find that unacceptable."

Nevin relayed his decision as the Board of Education considered its budget for fiscal year 2001 and a Facilities Master Plan that sets priorities for construction projects for the next decade. Before Nevin's remarks, the board approved a budget that school administrators say trims the school system to its barest minimums.

"You'll find cuts of $1 and $2 in here because we've nickel-and-dimed this thing to death," said Walter Brilhart, budget supervisor for the school system.

The result is a budget that eliminates an additional 1 percent pay raise for noninstructional staff as well as teaching positions that were to be added in an attempt to reduce class sizes. The proposal will be forwarded to the county commissioners for consideration next month.

The commissioners, seeking to funnel more money directly into classrooms, are for the first time allocating funds to specific budget categories, such as textbooks, administration and instructional staff. The superintendent of schools and the school board previously determined how to spend a lump sum from the county commissioners.

Last week the commissioners approved a budget that gives the Board of Education about $98.1 million in county funds -- about $3.5 million less than the board requested -- to cover day-to-day expenses in fiscal year 2001. The commissioners have not yet approved the school system's state and federal allocations, which would bring the total budget to about $182.3 million.

While trying to avoid cuts that affect instruction, school administrators trimmed about $3 million from their original budget request and moved $4.2 million among categories.

But differences remain.

The school system wants $496,430 more for administrative positions and instructional salaries. School officials say the money is needed to hire clerical staff for teachers and guidance counselors. Meanwhile, the commissioners offered $258,434 more for textbooks and instructional supplies than school officials say they need.

The school board also discussed the school system's Facilities Master Plan. Late last night, however, the board had not voted on the proposal.

New to this year's plan are a feasibility study of Charles Carroll Elementary School and an addition at Carrolltowne Elementary School to increase the capacity of the Eldersburg school to 750 pupils.

The study of Charles Carroll Elementary -- to determine whether to replace, modernize or close the school near Union Mills -- leaped from the next-to-last priority on last year's planning calendar list to the second-highest priority on this year's schedule.

The 71-year-old school is the county's oldest and is in the worst condition of the system's 39 schools, Kathleen Sanner, director of school support services, told the school board recently. The building's water and sewer systems could fail at any time, she said.

Modernization projects at William Winchester Elementary in Westminster and Freedom Elementary in Sykesville were moved up by two years.

A new south Carroll middle school and a South Carroll High fine arts addition were bumped back a year because the projects did not receive state planning recognition, and the commissioners have not yet budgeted funds.

Also, a new Westminster-area middle school was pushed to the bottom of the list because of the opening of Shiloh Middle in Hampstead this fall and the redistricting at East and West Middle schools in Westminster.

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