Balto. County schools to vote on budget plan


February 20, 2007|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,Sun Reporter

After postponing the meeting three times because of last week's icy weather, the Baltimore County school board is expected to meet tonight to vote on the district's proposed operating budget that includes $2.7 million to hire an assistant for every kindergarten classroom, nearly $40 million for salary increases and about $16 million to cover retiree benefits.

Superintendent Joe A. Hairston's proposed $1.16 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 reflects a 10.4 percent increase - about $110 million - over the current spending plan.

Board President Donald L. Arnold said the board has added to Hairston's proposal some of its own suggestions, which will be presented during tonight's meeting. Those additions, however, initially added about $24 million to Hairston's plan and the board's members had to find ways to reduce that figure.

"We looked at all the different suggestions that were made through public comments, and we've tried to accommodate some of those suggestions," Arnold said yesterday. "But having to pare it down means there may be programs we don't have the dollars to do."

Hairston's request also includes:

Nearly $2 million for the final phase of the expansion of all-day kindergarten. Nine elementary schools - Rodgers Forge, Fifth District, Prettyboy, Fort Garrison, Timonium, Riderwood, Sparks, Jacksonville and Carroll Manor - are the last of the county's 104 elementaries to get all-day kindergarten.

About $1.3 million to raise wages for the lowest-paid hourly workers. The pay increases are subject to labor negotiations under way between employee unions and school officials.

The proposed budget also provides $814,000 in startup costs, including hiring a principal and front-office secretary, for Vincent Farm Elementary. That school is expected to open in the White Marsh area in time for the 2008-2009 school year.

The school system's budget request must be forwarded to County Executive James T. Smith Jr. by March 1.

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