The Anne Arundel County school board is expected today to ask for $11 million less from the county government, thanks to a an unanticipated boost in state aid.
But as the board prepares to vote on -- and is expected to approve largely unchanged -- Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell's $969 million operating budget request, board President Tricia Johnson left the door open to the possibility of reinstating programs "left on the cutting room floor."
Some board members have pushed for continuing the expansion of the AVID program, which provides extra tutoring and counseling to students in the "academic middle." The program was to have to expanded to more elementary schools this year, but Maxwell suggested delaying that plan to save money.
The system had been working with old state revenue projections when it first developed its budget request in December, but updated numbers from the State House last month showed Anne Arundel schools will get $11 million more from the state than the county had expected. That's "hopeful" news, said Susan Bowen, the schools budget director. But she's still worried about how much the county government, which provides about 65 percent of the district's budget, will be able to help.
The system is seeking a $77 million increase from the county in its fiscal 2009 budget, mostly due to promised raises to teachers, administrators and support staff that school leaders worry the cash-strapped county will not be able to afford.
"The [additional state aid] helps, but it does not solve the problem," Bowen said.
To shore up the system's reserves heading into the bleak 2009 fiscal year, Maxwell has eliminated 50 nonteaching positions, cut funding for training conferences and school supplies and reduced the reliance on substitute teachers to save roughly $3.7 million. Maxwell also said he planned to review all the system's operations to see if some things can be done more cost-effectively and had anticipated that some services might have to be outsourced to save money.
But that review has not resulted in any substantial changes to the way the system runs.
Maxwell is suggesting about $13.4 million in additional spending to strengthen areas such as special education and magnet schools -- far from the $70 million in new staffing and programs he proposed last year. The system is seeking an overall $100 million increase, a large chunk of it because of negotiated union agreements.
County teachers are expecting the third straight year of 6 percent raises. Administrators also are scheduled to get 6 percent, while support staff such as secretaries, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and custodians have signed contracts for 3 percent raises.
However, Maxwell has expressed some reservations that the county would be able to fund those commitments. Though County Executive John R. Leopold has repeatedly pledged to provide enough money to pay for the teachers' raises, he has been vague about funding the associated health care and benefits costs and the raises for the other employees.
The raises are one reason school board member and fiscal conservative, Victor E. Bernson, said he is likely to vote against the budget.
"I believe the unions are killing us," he said yesterday. "I want to see some concessions from the unions."