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County school officials are hoping that a continued freeze on purchases of supplies and equipment will get them through the latest round of cuts to the 1991-1992 school budget, announced last week.

The school system will have to absorb $2.5 million of the $4 million budget cut that County Executive Charles I. Ecker announced last week. Ecker, facing a possible reduction of $8.2 million in state aid to Howard County, decided to cut the county budget now while he still has five months remaining in the fiscal year rather than wait for the General Assembly to act.

His best information from legislative leaders is that the county will probably lose about half the $8.2 million in state aid.

Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said he will hold up purchases of supplies, materials and equipment, but is not planning to furlough employees.

"I don't want to furlough unless it is a last resort," Hickey said. He said earlier this month that if the General Assembly cuts $141mil

lion in state aid as proposed, and the school system has to absorb $5 million of the county's $8.2 million loss, school employees would have to be furloughed for four days.

Supplies and materials are allocated approximately $7 million in the current $176.8 million operating budget.

The freeze on purchases gives the school system some flexibility. If the legislature does not cut aid to counties, Hickey said Ecker assured him last week that the Department of Education will be allowed to go ahead with orders for supplies and materials.

School officials must buy supplies and materials for the three new schools scheduled to open next fall, but they will open with leanerstocks than new schools have enjoyed in the last several years.

New schools opening in September are Forest Ridge and Elkridge elementaries and Burleigh Manor Middle.

"What we'll do is look very carefully at these orders for the new schools and see if there are any possible (items) we can defer," Hickey said.

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