Officials warn schools budget isn't affordable

Carroll board approves $7.6 million more than expected allotment

March 01, 2001|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Carroll County officials expressed surprise yesterday over a $195.3 million operating budget approved Tuesday night by the Board of Education and warned that the county cannot afford it.

"That's going to be a tough one to deal with," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. "I don't think we have that much money, but I'm certainly willing to look at it and see what they have to say. ... We'll definitely have to pick and choose from what they have."

At the end of a nearly four-hour meeting Tuesday night, the school board heaped almost $1 million in new staff positions and textbook money onto a budget proposal that had grown by $6.6 million since interim Superintendent Charles I. Ecker unveiled his preliminary recommendation seven weeks ago.

School board members tacked on $861,600 in salary and benefits for 16 new teachers, two guidance counselors and two staffers to work with technology in schools. They also added $100,000 to buy textbooks to replace outdated ones.

Board member Susan Holt characterized the additions as "optional necessities."

As the Tuesday night crowd of more than 550 dwindled to a few dozen, the board members unanimously approved Ecker's amended budget and the board's additions.

"This raises the budget considerably," board member C. Scott Stone said as he and his colleagues agreed to funding for the additional teachers as a way to reduce class size, "and it gives us something to fight for."

Added board President Susan W. Krebs, "I'm not saying we're going to get all the dollars to fund these things, but I think we can at least try."

County budget director Steven D. Powell said yesterday that Krebs' assumptions about the spending plan's affordability are correct.

"We've said all along that even getting [an additional] $4.5 million from the county does not seem likely given our ability to manage the current revenue stream," he said. "But it's definitely safe to say that we do not have another $7.5 million to spend."

The $195.3 million budget approved by the board includes about $7.6 million more than school officials have said they expect to receive from state and county tax dollars.

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