Howard school board approves $675.1 million budget

Operating funds increased $10.3 million over Cousin's proposal

February 24, 2010|By John-John Williams IV |

The Howard County school board voted 6-1 Tuesday morning to approve a $675.1 million operating budget for fiscal year 2011.

The lone dissent came from board member Allen Dyer, who opposed spending money to provide transportation to parochial school students. Instead, Dyer wanted the board to spend $537,000 to offer foreign language instruction at all public elementary schools.

Dyer has questioned the transportation of parochial school students in the past. He sought an opinion from state officials, but the Maryland State Department of Education ruled last year that he did not have any standing. He has appealed that decision to Circuit Court, where it is under review.

Ellen Flynn Giles, board chairwoman, and several other board members objected to Dyer's plan. "These are not the types of things that you discuss when you approve the budget," she said. "[His proposal] was not supported with a plan for how those funds would be used."

The approved operating budget is a $10.3 million increase from the one proposed by Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin in January. The rise is due in large part to a pension contribution rate increase to 10.83 percent from 7.58 percent, and additional health fund contributions by the school system.

The budget does not include salaries negotiated between the school system and the unions representing teachers and support personnel. That process is expected to take several more months, according to Sue Mascaro, the school system's director of staff relations.

The budget will now go to the county executive, who can make cuts before submitting a proposal to the County Council. The council, which can make further cuts or restore funding, has until late May to approve a budget that will take effect June 1.

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