County board OKs budget for schools

Proposal for 2.3% increase called `status quo' plan

February 27, 2002|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

After thanking Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger repeatedly for all the money he has provided the schools in the past, school board members asked him last night for a whole lot more.

In approving what they called a "status quo" operating budget, board members tacked on an unusual $31 million wish list of additional priorities.

The list includes $11 million for employee raises and $13 million for classroom computers.

"We recognize the difficulties of the financial times," said board member Jean M.H. Jung, "but we also, as a board, have the fiscal responsibility of looking at what our children need."

The vote was 9-0, with board members Sanford V. Teplitzky and Janese F. Murray absent and student member Maria R. Cirincione ineligible to vote on budget matters.

Spending limit urged

Ruppersberger's staff has said that the school system should keep a lid on spending.

Despite the hopes of the school board, there will be no additional dollars, the county administration has said.

The board's budget request, without the add-ons, is 2.3 percent, or $18 million, more than the schools got this year.

Limited by lean economic times, the budget contains few extras: $271,000 for full-day kindergarten at Victory Villa and Edmondson Heights elementary schools; $163,000 for additional prekindergarten programs at six needy schools; and $311,000 for projected growth in the 107,000-student school system.

But other costs are on the rise, including an extra $15.2 million officials say they will need for benefits and health insurance.

The budget request goes to the executive and County Council for final approval.

Questions about MSPAP

In other business, the school board discussed joining Montgomery and Carroll counties in asking the state to suspend this year's Maryland School Performance Assessment Program. But after some heated discussion, the board decided to postpone a decision for two weeks.

Several board members were concerned that suspension of the tests could mean the loss of federal dollars tied to the assessments. School system staff members were unable to answer their questions, and board members decided to hold off until those answers could be found.

School boards in Montgomery and Carroll have questioned the reliability of the Maryland's signature examinations.

MSPAP will be changed in coming years to mirror a new federal law. Despite that, the test scheduled to be given this year will be given in the same format as in the past.

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