We want your opinions

January 07, 2007

ISSUE:

Saying the school system can be one of the country's best and that the county can afford to pay for it, Anne Arundel superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell has proposed a $920 million operating budget for the next fiscal year.

The operating budget, which he outlined to the school board Wednesday, calls for a $131 million increase, or 17 percent, to expand special education services, prekindergarten and all-day kindergarten programs; bolster security; update technology; and launch the International Baccalaureate program at Meade High School and precursor programs at three middle schools. It also funds a previously negotiated 6 percent salary increase for teachers.

The call for excellence might put into focus the level of education the county, constrained by a tax cap, is willing to spend in a belt-tightening year, given other pressing funding demands.

The county faces several expenses that will total in the billions of dollars: road upgrades and an expansion of mass transit around Fort Meade; the negotiation of 10 union contracts; growing commitments for retirees' health care; and school construction and renovations. The new county executive, John R. Leopold, vowed in the fall campaign that he would not raise taxes.

YOUR VIEW:

Given the financial challenges facing the county, can Anne Arundel afford a 17 percent increase in schools funding? How should it be paid for?

Tell us what you think at arundel.speakout@baltsun.com by Thursday. Please keep your responses short, and include your name, address and phone number. A selection will be published next Sunday.

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