"Maintenance of effort" will mean a $5 million boost in the county government's contribution to the public school operating budget for 1991-1992, but county officials warn that the school system shouldn't expect a penny more.

However, Superintendent Michael E. Hickey toldthe county PTA Council last week that he plans to recommend that theschool board hold the line at a county budget share of approximately$146.9 million, about $1.7 million more than County Executive Charles I. Ecker has said he can afford to give.

The board has a third public work session on the budget scheduledat 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Final action to put together the budget request the board will send to the county executive is scheduled at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19.

"Maintenance of effort" is a three-word summary of a state law that bars a county government from reducing its per-pupil support for the local school system below the previous year's level.

The county school system's growth in enrollment between September 1989 and September 1990 will require a $5.2 million increase in the $140 million that the county allocated to the school system for 1990-1991.

But school officials shouldn't expect any more, County Budget Administrator Raymond S. Wacks warned last week.

"Our commitment now is to give only what is required," Wacks said, echoing Ecker's warning last month to school officials.

Hickey's budget proposalfor the coming fiscal year is still more than $1 million over the level the county executive promised to finance, despite $10.5 million in cuts that the superintendent outlined to school board members at a Jan. 29 budget work session.

Hickey defended his stance that the 6percent salary increase for teachers is off limits for budget cuts. Ecker publicly criticized the superintendent's and board's plan to stand by the teacher contract at a time when county workers may be forced to forgo raises.

The superintendent conceded that if he ever again is faced with a request to negotiate a three-year contract, "The answer is no."

One PTA council representative opposed a raise for teachers in the current economic climate, but another took Hickey to task for cutting his initial $200.8 million budget request.

"Haven't you played into the county executive's hands by cutting anything at all?" asked Council Secretary Randy Harper. "You've now allowed those five dear people in Ellicott City (the County Council) to say, 'Hey, Hickey cut the budget, not us.' "

The superintendent replied that he believes the county's fiscal crisis is real and it would irresponsible of the school system, which takes up 52 percent of the countybudget, not to cut its request.

Major cuts the superintendent recommended include:

* Fifty-nine staff positions, about 30 of them "teacher pool" jobs. The "pool" allowed school officials flexibility to hire more teachers as needs developed after the school year began. Next year, "what you open school with is what you have," Hickey said.

*A total of $450,000 that would have been used to hire additionalhigh school teachers for a seven-period day. School officials gave permission last week for high schools to adopt seven-period days similar to the one Centennial High School had for 13 years, although they warned that larger class sizes will result.

* Other costs of $60,000 for new playground equipment at older schools; $50,000 cut from the 1990-1991 athletic equipment budget and promised for restoration in1991-1992; delay for one year $50,000 worth of textbooks for a new Spanish-language curriculum.

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