$243 million operating budget OK'd by Carroll school board

Members review cuts, question staff changes

May 13, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County Board of Education approved a $243 million operating budget yesterday for the next fiscal year that includes $102 million for instructional salaries and nearly $5 million for administration.

Although the board allotted time for public comment, no one asked to be heard. The budget takes effect July 1.

Before passing the budget, the board reviewed about $3 million in cuts, including money for several staff positions that Superintendent Charles I. Ecker had originally recommended. School board member Susan G. Holt said she was most concerned with the elimination of a middle school assistant principal position.

"The sixth, seventh and eighth grades are busy times, and we are watching middle schools teeter on crowding," Holt said. "They need the support staff."

Ecker said he would review the middle school administrative staffing. By eliminating one assistant principal position, he was able to hire an additional school psychologist.

The board had several questions about a $550,000 cut in federal funding for Title I programs next year.

"It stresses me greatly to see $550,000 lopped off this program," said board President C. Scott Stone.

The money pays for staff, materials and low-cost meals for needy children in seven county elementary schools.

"We will still be able to serve these schools, but not as healthily as we have in the past," said Pam Ayres, the schools' director of minority achievement and intervention programs. "We will have to lessen the allocation for each school, but we still expect to work within federal guidelines. There won't be as many materials, and there will be less professional opportunities for Title I staff."

Board member Thomas G. Hiltz called for an assessment to determine how well the Title I program, which received $1.8 million in federal funding this year, can function with a substantial funding cut. He said he fears "a substantial adverse impact."

The cut means the county cannot add another classroom for all-day kindergarten, a program that could be beneficial to many Title I students. William Winchester, Robert Moton and Taneytown elementaries will have about 20 pupils each in all-day kindergarten classes.

"There could be more children who qualify for this full-day program, but we can't give it to them," Ecker said.

At the monthly school board meeting last night, North Carroll residents pushed for a new high school for their community. That could cost as much as $30 million.

"Instead of exploring creative solutions that will ultimately be a Band-Aid, a new school is the only solution to this problem," said Pamela Bamberger, whose two daughters also spoke before the board.

A parade of students described North Carroll High School's crowded hallways, long lunch lines, library with no space and closets turned into classrooms.

The school is projected to be 40 percent above capacity by the time a new one is built.

"You tell us we are the future of the world," said Alex Guthart, a North Carroll freshman. "What kind of future will we have without a new school?"

Ecker is scheduled to announce his recommendation on dealing with crowding at North Carroll on June 9. A public hearing on North Carroll is scheduled for June 15.

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