The school board gave a public hearing on its proposed fiscal 1993 budget Tuesday night -- and fewer than a dozen citizens bothered to show up.
It was the smallest turnout in recent memory. During the 75-minute presentation on Superintendent R. Edward Shilling's proposed $112.28 million package, the number of staff people overwhelmed the number of citizens, 4-to-1.
Some interesting highlights:
* Increasing the overall budget by $5.15 million.
* Requesting $1.3 million less from the county.
* Counting on an additional $6.1 million from the state Action Planfor Educational Excellence.
* No plans for salary increases -- not even in longevity or increment pay -- for teachers and other schoolworkers.
Those last two items are the ones which draw the most attention, for they could easily change. If so, the entire fiscal package could be in jeopardy.
School officials, including Shilling, have acknowledged that the $6.1 million increase in Apex is not cast in cement. They know all too well that the proposed budget doesn't mean anything until they know for sure what's going to happen in Annapolis.
And if there's one thing that's certain, no one -- from the governor on down -- knows how lawmakers will resolve the continuing financial woes of the state, which continue to grow and be balanced on thebacks of local governments.
If the increased APEX money isn't forthcoming, Shilling and his staff will have to go back and reshape thebudget. It won't be easy, since they have to hire more staff and buymaterials for a new school; that means cuts will have to be made elsewhere.
The other wrinkle is salary negotiations. Will teachers and other school employees accept a second consecutive year of no pay increases?
For that reason alone, one would have expected teachers to have attended Tuesday's hearing. In past years, they have turned out to express their concerns on various issues.
Perhaps no one showed up because taxpayers are resigned to the fiscal mess and are justthankful that their taxes won't have to be raised to finance higher education costs.
In light of this apathy, it was no great loss when Thursday's snowstorm canceled the second of three planned budget hearings.
And it will come as no surprise when no one shows up againat the final hearing 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at West Middle, when the board passes the budget.