School board adopts operating budget that includes 3% pay raise

$2.5 million included for all-day kindergarten

Carroll County

February 18, 2005|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN STAFF

Carroll County school board members adopted a $269 million operating budget request last night that includes 3 percent across-the-board pay raises for teachers and other district employees, and $2.5 million to begin implementing full-day kindergarten.

The five-member panel unanimously approved Superintendent Charles I. Ecker's proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2006 after adding nearly $2 million to his request to address staffing shortfalls and other learning initiatives.

The request, which will be forwarded to the county commissioners by March 1, calls for an increase of about $26 million, or about 11 percent, over this year's budget.

"We're looking at the needs of the system," Ecker said after last night's meeting. "We need more teachers, more guidance counselors, more clerical people. We're 22nd out of 24 [school districts] for our per-pupil expenditure."

The board's additions included a little more than $1 million to hire 20 more teachers and clerical workers to help ease the workload, and nearly $647,000 to hire more guidance counselors.

Board members also added $45,000 for Community Learning Centers, an after-school program, and $175,000 to bolster the district's Read 180 program, a remedial initiative that they would like to see offered in all seven high schools. Read 180 is offered at two high schools this school year.

The board included $70,565 to hire another behavioral specialist, at Ecker's request. The district has three behavioral specialists. The final budget proposal had included two more specialists.

"This is the time to identify those items that are above and beyond the superintendent's recommendation that we believe are needed," said C. Scott Stone, who proposed most of the budget additions.

The school board and negotiators from five unions representing more than 3,100 district employees recently concluded contract talks that resulted in the 3 percent pay raise, which accounts for about $7 million of the district's budget request, Christopher Hartlove, the system's budget supervisor, said yesterday.

Union employees are expected to vote on the two-year contract agreement by late next month, said Hal Fox, who represents the Carroll County Education Association and the Carroll Association of School Employees.

School officials have proposed increasing a yearly stipend to teachers who earn national teacher certification from $2,000 a year to $7,000 a year. Money to pay for the stipends comes from local and state sources.

"It's a recognized certification that speaks to the quality of the teacher," Hartlove said. By raising the stipend, the school system is trying to encourage more teachers to undertake the three-year certification process.

The budget request also seeks funding for another teacher workday at a cost of $577,000 and $70,000 to establish a JROTC program at Century High School in Eldersburg.

The proposed budget seeks funding for 17 more staff positions at Parr's Ridge Elementary in Mount Airy, which is scheduled to open in the fall with about 440 children in kindergarten through second grade.

Nearly 80 percent of the district's proposed budget is allocated for instructional items such as teacher salaries, special education, textbooks and supplies, officials said.

The request seeks money to implement all-day kindergarten at eight of the county's 21 elementary schools and to hire more teachers and staff members to accommodate growing enrollment at many schools.

School officials estimate that they need about $2.5 million to fund the first phase of full-day kindergarten. The full-day kindergarten program -- scheduled to be implemented over the next three school years -- is being phased in first at schools that will not require construction of classrooms, Hartlove said.

In a school system with almost 1,800 kindergartners -- most of whom would usually attend school for a half-day -- the need to accommodate them for the entire day means the district needs more kindergarten teachers, Hartlove said.

School officials are projecting that the system will have 1,923 kindergartners by the 2007-2008 school year. The state Department of Education has ordered that all public school systems provide all-day kindergarten by then.

"We'll be going from about 2,000 half-day kindergartners to about 2,000 full-day kindergartners over a three-year period, which means we'll need to double the number of kindergarten teachers over that time," Hartlove said.

Ecker's initial proposal called for adding about 144 instructional positions -- including teachers, instructional assistants and resource teachers -- throughout the district for fiscal 2006. More than a third of those slots, 55, are associated with the all-day kindergarten initiative.

The commissioners are scheduled to approve a county budget, including funding for the school system, by late May.

At that point, school officials will also know how much state funding the district will get, and they will determine a final fiscal 2006 operating budget by June, Hartlove said.

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