Arundel Academic Changes Put On Hold

December 17, 2009|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,

Anne Arundel County schools Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell introduced to the school board Wednesday evening a $981 million operating budget that puts on hold new academic programming, saying that "this coming year will be as difficult as the current one."

The proposed budget, a 4.8 percent increase over fiscal year 2010's approved $936 million operating budget, does not contain any new funding for educational programming or new staffing. Maxwell said the lean budget would mean increases in class sizes - for the second consecutive year - and delays for signature programs at three of the county's middle schools and three high schools, as well as a biomedical health magnet program at Glen Burnie High and the Performing and Visual Arts magnet at Brooklyn Park Middle.

"Either you lower what you're paying people or you employ less people," Maxwell said to reporters when asked how he would deal with potential cuts. "I can't turn off the lights. I think this is a very prudent budget. It's not like I'm asking for everything I need."

School officials said 80 percent of the operating budget is tied to employee compensation and benefits; 14 percent is fixed costs, such as debt service, transportation and utilities; and the remaining 6 percent of the budget is variable costs, such as equipment, instruction materials and technology.

In addition, the superintendent requested $7.5 million in new funds for employee health care and an additional $7.5 million to compensate for the four furlough days that school system employees were forced to take this school year. All of the negotiated agreements with the school system's unions are also fully funded.

Maxwell said he was unsure if another round of furloughs would be necessary.

"Whether we'll have to do that again, I don't know," he said.

County budget officer John R. Hammond said the county is grappling with a $93 million budget shortfall and the "realistic best" level that County Executive John R. Leopold can fund the school system is the state's maintenance-of-effort provision, which requires funding at the same level as the previous year.

"Given the fiscal outlook, there are a lot of uncertainties," Hammond said. "The realistic best we can do for the Board of Education is probably maintenance of effort."

Maxwell also introduced the $176 million capital budget, containing about $129 million for 13 major construction projects, including open space classroom enclosures, kindergarten additions and science laboratory modernizations. About 57 percent of the proposed capital budget funds the study design or construction at 16 schools - eight of which were eliminated by the county executive last year, school officials said.

The school board plans public hearings on both budgets next month.

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