School board amends '95-'95 spending plan


Baltimore's school board amended its original budget request yesterday, adding new programs for disruptive students.

After shifting $1.7 million to school-safety programs, the board approved a $646 million spending plan that is 2.3 percent larger than this year's budget.

The proposed budget for school year 1995-1996 now includes $900,000 for the creation of six "presuspension centers," $600,000 less than school administrators say they need to launch their programs for counseling and teaching students with behavior problems.

The centers, based on a three-year-old model program at Pimlico Middle School, would teach students problem-solving and coping skills before returning them to regular classes.

"We'll manage with this," said Sheila Kolman, president of the Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association, which helped develop the plan for the centers. "On the first day of school in September, we're going to have children in the seats in these centers."

Several school board members shared her disappointment, and pledged to seek additional funding from private foundations and from the state.

"Are we programming this process to fail by not funding it properly?" board member Lloyd Bowser asked Superintendent Walter G. Amprey, who urged the school board to approve the spending plan to meet today's deadline for sending it to City Hall.

"I don't know how we can balance this budget and shift any more money," Dr. Amprey said.

The board increased spending on conflict mediation training by $470,000 and set aside $400,000 for schools to spend on their individual anti-drug education and safety programs, said James Hall, interim finance director.

These budget changes were primarily transfers of federal Drug Free and Safe School Act funds, and Baltimore must request approval from the state for this use of the money.

Dr. Amprey also announced the creation of a Center for Safe Schools and Violence Prevention, which will serve all city schools as a training site and information clearinghouse. It is to be staffed with a director and three employees, who will train teachers and administrators.

Except for the concerns raised about the money for the safety programs, the school system's total budget passed without debate and with the same bottom line approved March 2.

The city's support of the school system for the forthcoming budget year is $195 million, up from $192 million. About 42 percent of the city's property tax -- $2.44 of the total rate of $5.85 per $100 of assessed value -- goes to the school operating budget.

Of the proposed $646 million budget, 76.3 percent is for salaries and fringe benefits.

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 request also seeks about $194,000 to add six school security officers; $440,000 for staff development programs; and an estimated $1.2 million for an increase in the cost of the Education Alternatives Inc. contract.

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