Beginning today, applicants seeking a job with the county schools will have to pay for their own background checks, as recent budget cutsand the threat of additional losses have prompted the system to cease paying for the fingerprint checks on prospective hires.

"Any newperson coming to the county will have to pay for his or her own fingerprinting," said Carol Parham, director of Human Resources for the Board of Education.

"We're not talking about anyone currently employed. We're required by law to fingerprint all new people coming into the system. In thepast we've always picked up the cost, but the cost is $41 per person."

The fingerprints are run through state police and FBI files to see if the prospective employee has a criminal record, and the natureof that record, Parham said.

The criminal offenses that send up ared flag to the school system are murder; child abuse; rape; child pornography; kidnapping a minor; manufacturing, distribution or dispensing a controlled dangerous substance; or possession with intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense a controlled dangerous substance.

Other criminal offenses include: hiring, soliciting, engaging, or using a minor for the manufacturing, distribution, or delivering of acontrolled dangerous substance; or any crime classified as a sex offense under Maryland law.

Baltimore County's Board of Education began requiring its prospective employees to pay for their own background checks a few years ago, said Baltimore County school spokesman Richard E. Bavaria. Other jurisdictions also are considering that, Parhamsaid.

All school boards have come under a mandate to trim their budgets. When the state reduced aid to Anne Arundel County by about $32 million, County Executive Robert R. Neall asked the school board tocut more than $10 million from its current budget.

About $10,000 was included in the 1991-1992 budget for employment background investigations. More than $30,000 had been spent the previous year for those checks.

Parham said the Human Resources Department already had cut back its budget by almost eliminating recruitment of employees. The department still is working to reduce costs, she said.

"These are very difficult economic times," Parham said. "The expense of payingfor background checks is one we can no longer afford to absorb."

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