City schools budget plan goes to board

More money would go toward instruction

March 07, 2001|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Baltimore education officials are expected to present to the school board tonight an $885.4 million budget for next year that increases spending on instructional programs while decreasing spending on administration.

The proposed operating budget for the year that begins July 1 includes $49.9 million in new money -- a 6 percent increase over current spending.

"Ninety percent of that is [budgeted] in the instructional area," said Mark Smolarz, chief financial officer for the city school system. "We're putting more of our dollars into instruction and less into administration and support."

Most of the school budget is funded by the state. Gov. Parris N. Glendening agreed this year to provide city schools with $55 million in additional state funding for fiscal year 2002 -- ending the latest round of legal battling over how much money Baltimore schools should get.

The preliminary budget proposes using some of that $55 million to increase spending on expanded summer and after-school programs, middle and high school reform, a pay raise for new principals, improved libraries and a gifted-and-talented program.

Overall, spending on instruction would increase by more than 10 percent, while spending in the technology department would increase more than 19 percent. Administrative costs would be cut by more than 10 percent.

Smolarz and budget director Les Linaburg presented the preliminary budget to the school board's finance committee yesterday. The full board will be presented with the budget tonight.

The school system is in the midst of a spending freeze. School officials carried over a $19.1 million deficit from last fiscal year, and have drastically cut costs this year to address a projected shortfall that could have reached $16.8 million. Smolarz said yesterday that he expects to end the year with a small surplus.

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