Carroll schools budget faces shortfall of $1.5 million or more

Draft is due tomorrow

higher insurance costs, new facilities noted

January 22, 2002|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Carroll County's interim schools superintendent will present a budget proposal tomorrow that covers unavoidable costs of increasing health and property insurance and new school openings as well as modest increases to keep up with growth.

Even so, Charles I. Ecker's preliminary spending plan allocates more money than the school system is likely to receive from local, state and federal governments. "Right now, without any salary increases for any employees, it looks like we'll be about $1.5 million to $2 million more than the revenue we expect to receive," he said.

The superintendent and his staff have estimated about $8.8 million in new expenditures for fiscal year 2003, which will begin July 1.

Expenses for opening two high schools account for nearly half of that sum. Second-year costs for Eldersburg's Century High, which opened in August, and startup costs for Westminster's Winters Mill High, to open in August, total about $4.2 million. The budget proposal also includes $2.5 million for increases in medical insurance, $360,000 for increases for property and casualty insurance, $250,000 for increased transportation costs, $200,000 for additional special-education costs and $100,000 for rising utility costs.

Ecker also wants to add $1 million to hire 24 teachers to keep up with growth in a school system that will have gained 550 new students in two years without adding staff. He also would like to hire 16 elementary school teachers to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through second grade.

The current budget proposal will not include money for staff raises until union negotiations have been completed.

"There are severe and significant needs in all of our schools," school board President Susan W. Krebs told nearly 100 people who gathered last week at Hampstead Elementary School for a town meeting. She urged them to write to state officials, especially Gov. Parris N. Glendening, in support of the Thornton Commission, the state panel that recommended Maryland spend $1.1 billion more on public schools to meet its constitutional commitment to funding schools in different jurisdictions more equitably.

The commission recommended that Carroll County receive an additional $65.4 million in school funding during the next five years.

Ecker will present his proposal to the school board at a work session at 1 p.m. tomorrow. Several budget meetings will follow, all at 7 p.m.: Jan. 29 at Runnymede Elementary, Feb. 5 at Century High and Feb. 27 at Westminster High. The board is scheduled to adopt a budget at the final public meeting.

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