School board transfers money to cover textbooks, equipment costs

More than half a million dollars will be transferred from state categories in the Harford County Board of Education's fiscal year 2012 budget to compensate for higher expenditures in other categories.

"We have to live within the financial state," said Jim Jewell, assistant superintendent of business services, during Monday's Board of Education meeting.

Jewell added that the school system needs "this money to make sure the budget is balanced in the state category year round."

School documents read that textbooks and supplies for the classrooms are estimated to exceed the budget by $300,000, and costs for instructional equipment will exceed the budget by $200,000.

In addition, student service costs for school activities will exceed by $50,000 in the student personnel services state category.

"Principals are allowed discretion in their school allocated accounts as long as they do not overspend their total budgetary allocation," Jewell said. "Sometimes a state category may experience a higher utilization in expenditures than another state category. The budget office ensures that at the end of the year each state category is balanced, thus sometimes transfers are necessary."

In total, $550,000 was transferred to the textbooks and supplies, other instructional costs and student services categories.

Special education contracts

The board also approved five contracts with agencies that will provide physical, occupational and speech/language therapy services.

Providers will be Care Resources, County Therapy Associates, Invo Healthcare, Maryland Therapy Network and Progressus Therapy. It was noted that each contract has the potential to exceed $100,000 depending on the extent of services the Department of Special Education may be required to provide.

It is required that school systems provide such services to the students with disabilities and infants and toddler program to support the student's educational needs.

Ann-Marie Spakowski, special education director, told the board the contracts are "modifications we need to make throughout this year to provide for all the services necessary for our students."

Board member James Thornton asked how the therapists are chosen and what the process was in hiring them.

Spakowski explained that the school system is really at the mercy of the agencies that provide the therapists on a contractual basis since there is a shortage of people who work in physical, occupational and speech therapy.

Thornton asked if the school system has a limited pool of resources it has access to, to which Spakowski responded, "Very little, yes."

Updates on health and safety of schools

Cornell Brown, assistant superintendent for operations, updated the board on measures of progress HCPS has taken to ensure the health and safety of its students and facilities.

With funding approved for air-conditioning systems at William Paca and Youth's Benefit elementary schools, by the end of the calendar year the alternative educational center will be the only school in the county to not have air conditioning.

All of HCPS' 54 facilities were tested for indoor air quality, surveys done semi-annually, and security, which is surveyed every year.

The purpose of the surveys is to identify any problems in the facilities and work with the schools to fix any deficiencies, as well as come up with an action plan for any future issues.

An example of one problem found in a school is an odor was identified in classroom. It was then found that a ruptured steam pipe was the cause and was then fixed.

Brown noted that the surveys are part of preventative maintenance.

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