2.3% more sought for schools


Superintendent Walter G. Amprey asked the Baltimore school board yesterday for a $646.6 million operating budget for next academic year.

Dr. Amprey is seeking a spending increase of about $14.7 million, or 2.3 percent, more than was approved for the current budget.

"This budget reflects the severe economic constraints facing the city and the school system," Dr. Amprey told the board.

Included in Dr. Amprey's request is an estimated $1.2 million increase in the cost of the Education Alternatives Inc. contract, but no expansion of some of the other privatization programs currently in the schools.

Dr. Amprey said he had hoped to expand the Barclay-Calvert and Sylvan Learning programs, but did not propose that in the spending plan because of budgetary constraints.

He said the proposal includes $15.9 million for estimated increases in payroll and benefits for teachers and staff. Of that amount, $2.4 million is for teachers needed for an anticipated enrollment increase of 1,100 students.

The school system and the Baltimore Teachers Union have already begun negotiating a new labor agreement on salaries only -- the only part of the contract that is open.

The school system is also negotiating with its paraprofessionals.

Salaries, benefits and working conditions are on the table in those talks.

Dr. Amprey proposes to increase the number of school social workers and to buy equipment and supplies for career and technology programs.

He also seeks cuts in some administrative costs that are handled by schools and that previously were managed by headquarters staff.

"We have tried not to affect the schools. We've tried to curtail spending on any of the administrative things that are nonessential," said James E. Hall, interim director of finance and procurement for the school system.

For next academic year, the school system anticipates receiving $195 million from the city compared to the $191.9 million it got in the current budget, Mr. Hall said. The remainder of the funds comes from the state and federal governments.

Board president Dr. Philip H. Farfel told school system finance officers to begin immediately looking for savings in the proposal so that funds can be allocated for new school-safety programs.

He expects to receive a plan and budget request Tuesday from principals, who have been meeting to develop recommendations for programs targeting disruptive and violent students.

"We are committed to finding solutions; first we have to listen to our school principals," Dr. Farfel said.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. March 16 at school headquarters on North Avenue.

The board must send its spending plan to the city finance department by April 7.

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