Superintendent wants additional $1.4 million


The superintendent of schools wants at least $1.4 million more than the county executive provided for Harford County schools this coming year.

Superintendent Ray R. Keech asked the County Council Thursday to increase the executive's $101 million operating budget for schools and to shift $761,000 within the budget to pay for new teachers, two new pre-kindergarten rooms, more substitute teachers and teachers for gifted and talented students.

The school board's budget is the only one the County Council can increase. It can reduce but not increase all other agencies' budgets.

Dr. Keech and other school officials defended their requests during an all-day work session.

The council will make no changes in the Board of Education's budget for at least a month to give other agencies a chance to defend their budgets, said Council President Joanne Parrott.

The school system needs to hire 80 teachers to maintain class size when enrollment is expected to increase by 1,200 next school year, Dr. Keech said.

County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann allowed $1.2 million to hire 35 new teachers in the budget she submitted to the council, instead of the $2.9 million requested. She also designated $761,000 for instructional equipment, copiers and computers that the Board of Education had not requested.

Mrs. Rehrmann recommended a $3.5 million increase overall in the school budget.

"This is by far the very smallest request that has been made to the county in years," Dr. Keech said. The increase sought by the Board of Education would maintain current services, but "it's not going to move the system forward in any of the long range plans," he said.

Only the 52 percent of school system employees eligible for regular "step" increases will receive pay raises this year. Mrs. Rehrmann recommended a lump payment to each county employee equal to 1 percent of their salaries.

The Board of Education made final its contract with the Harford County Education Association, the teachers union, in March -- before the executive announced the lump payment idea.

Jean Thomas, president of the association, said she read about the recommendation in the newspaper.

"That was never presented to us as an option [during contract negotiations]," she said. "I don't know how we would have decided."

Councilwoman Susan Heselton objected to the school system's plan to provide step increases, but Councilmen Barry Glassman and Mark Decker said they supported them.

Mrs. Heselton also questioned the hiring of a risk management specialist, which Deputy Superintendent Albert F. Seymour said was the school system's only new administrative position this year.

For $34,437 a year, the specialist would help reduce the cost of the 250 worker compensation claims filed by school employees each year, said Roger C. Niles, assistant superintendent for administrative services, whose office handles the claims.

Such a position would duplicate a department in the county government, Mrs. Heselton said.

School officials also presented capital budget requests. Mrs. Rehrmann funded $7.5 million of the $24.7 million total cost for proposed construction and renovation projects, but that amount could change as the state legislature and Board of Public Works make their final allocations.

School officials may have to come before the council again to answer questions. The council has until May 31 to act on the executive's budget.

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