School board adds $260,000 to its budget proposal

Funding would be used to hire staff members and revive varsity golf

February 24, 2005|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

The Howard County school board has added $260,000 to Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin's proposed $493.2 million budget request for next year to pay for golf as a varsity high school sport and hire an additional budget analyst, an internal auditor and a Web master.

With negotiations with the teachers union continuing, more money for salary increases could boost the budget request, which will be forwarded to the county executive.

A 3 percent pay raise and step increases, for instance, would add about $18 million to the request. Cousin told the board at Tuesday's work session that he would have a contract proposal with the teachers union by March 1, when the board is scheduled to vote on the budget for fiscal 2006.

The board's additions - tentatively approved at the work session - include $45,000 for coaches' stipends at the county's 12 high schools, including Marriotts Ridge, opening in August, to restart a varsity golf program.

There would be no transportation costs because of waivers allowing coaches to drive athletes to matches. Moreover, the county's golf courses have agreed to donate greens fees, said Courtney Watson, the school board chairman, who proposed that the board add money for the program.

Student golfers had lobbied the school board to reinstate the varsity golf program, which officials eliminated with gymnastics in the 1980s because of Title IX, which called for gender equity in sports.

School officials saw a $45,000 revenue increase from ticket sales at fall athletic events when stadium lights were installed and expect additional increases for next year to offset the costs associated with the golf program.

An additional $80,000 would be used to hire a second budget analyst as the school system implements a new financial management system. The school system's budget office now has one officer, David S. White, to develop and handle the spending plan of about a half-billion dollars.

In contrast, the Harford County school system, which has a budget proposal for next year of $338.8 million, has three analysts in its budget office, said Raymond Brown, the Howard system's chief operating officer.

About $45,000 would help pay for an internal auditor; $40,000 had been allocated in the budget for audit services. The position has been recommended for the second straight year by the school board's operating budget review committee.

Board members say those two positions would help the school system operate more efficiently.

"An analyst and auditor should be positions that are included in a half-a-billion-dollar organization," Watson said. "Our budget staff and budget department are antiquated in terms of the number of people who work there. We're trying to move the financial area into the 21st century."

A full-time Web master, at a cost of $55,000, would help develop and maintain the school system's Web site as well as sites for individual schools.

Benefits for the three new positions would cost an additional $35,000.

Cousin's budget proposal would restore several cuts made during lean years, including replacing textbooks, expanding full-day kindergarten to a dozen more schools next school year and adding 208 teachers.

The school board is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday to vote on the budget.

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