It was an ironic spending proposal, following a year in which Carroll educators, like their counterparts at the national and state levels, talked of reform and unveiled a series of measures aimed at improving schools.

But because the national, state and regional economies are under siege, the $110.3 million budget unanimously approved last week by the county Board of Education places improvements to Carroll's classrooms on hold.

"We believe this is simply a year to maintain the status quo anddo the best we can because we recognize what the economy is," said Superintendent R. Edward Shilling.

The status quo in Carroll classrooms means maintaining existing programs, providing additional staffto accommodate a 2.4 percent increase -- or 525 students -- in enrollment, and opening Piney Ridge and Spring Garden elementaries.

"Ithink it's important for all of us to recognize that this is going to be a tough budget year," Shilling said. "Certainly, what was cut represented some important things."

In trimming the superintendent's initial $112 million spending proposal by about $2.2 million, the board eliminated 34 new teaching and other positions, many of them aimed at improving classroom size and programs.

On the list of improvements were more media specialists to improve services in school media centers, more elementary teachers to address elementary planning and provide students with more instruction in health education, art, music and physical education.

"Everything seemed to be on a good roll in terms of education -- there was national, statewide and extensive local support for school improvement," said board member Carolyn L. Scott. "And now, all of it is just coming to a screeching halt because no funds are available for improvement."

Hiring an additional health resource teacher at the middle school level, for example, would have moved school officials closer to their goal of providing students with 45 days of health instruction each year, said Brian L. Lockard, assistant superintendent of instruction.

But without that position -- eliminated during budget trimming for a savings of $27,936 --middle school students will continue to receive 15 to 20 days of instruction, he said.

Although the board reduced the county's proposed share of the budget from $63.2 million to $61 million, the expenditure still represents a $5.5 million increase over the current fiscal year.

Steven D. Powell, the county's director of management and budget, said the additional $5.5 million would be difficult to obtain.

"But I'm sure the two boards will work at achieving an appropriatecompromise in light of our revenue situation," Powell said.

Commission President Donald I. Dell called the additional funding request "questionable" and said county and school officials are going to haveto make some tough choices.

"I hope we can reach a figure that everybody will be happy with and continue to provide good education without any real serious cuts," Dell said.

While county officials review the proposed spending plan, educators are working to make an additional $500,000 in cuts from the current $100 million budget to help the county overcome a $5.3 million deficit.

County agencies have been asked to trim 1 percent from the current fiscal budgets, and Shilling said school officials are "very willing" to be part of the solution to Carroll's budget woes.

To make the cuts, Shilling said, school officials probably will leave vacant clerical and administrative positions unfilled and trim budgets for materials, supplies and equipment.

On another front, William H. Hyde, assistant superintendent of administration, testified Friday in Annapolis against a Senate bill that would transfer about $600,000 in state money currently earmarked for Carroll schools to the Maryland School Performance Program.

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