Proposed '08 school budget to be unveiled

Cousin to present plan to Howard County board

January 03, 2007|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,Sun reporter

Funding for full-day kindergarten, health insurance, transportation, utilities and the opening of an elementary school will highlight Howard County school Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin's proposed 2008 operating budget when he unveils it tomorrow.

Cousin confirmed those items yesterday, but declined to disclose dollar amounts.

Teacher pay also will be a major consideration for Cousin this budget process.

The school system is involved in contract negotiations with the four bargaining units that represent teachers, support staff and administrators.

"Those are big-ticket items," said school board member Sandra F. French, who considers planning time for elementary school teachers as one of her top funding priorities.

Since employee contracts are being negotiated, Cousin will have to unveil the budget for fiscal year 2008 without money for new salaries, according to board Chairman Diane Mikulis.

"We kind of have to leave a blank there," Mikulis said. "[We'll have an amount] once the negotiations are complete and everything is agreed upon."

Cousin said he hoped that the contracts can be completed by Feb. 27, the date the school board is scheduled to approve the operating budget.

Last year, the board approved a $551.5 million operating budget that increased teachers' salaries by 3.5 percent. That increase improved the base salary of teachers to fourth in the state, up from eighth. For example, a first-year teacher made $40,080, up from $38,971.

Last month, Cousin said that his budget would include funding to make the school system more technologically self-sufficient. The announcement came after a series of problems associated with a student-data computer program.

The operating budget will have to include money to add full-day kindergarten - a federal mandate - to the 11 schools that don't have it; money for Veterans Elementary School in Ellicott City, which is scheduled to open in August; and a way to absorb rising health care, utility and transportation costs.

Mikulis said she wants the operating budget to include money to continue successful programs for student achievement.

After Cousin announces his proposal, the school board will hold a series of public meetings. After the school board approves the operating budget in February, the operating and capital budgets will go to the county executive, who can make cuts. The County Council gets the final say, and members can restore funding that the executive removes - if they find a way to pay for it.

Cousin will unveil the operating budget at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Board of Education in Ellicott City.

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