With a now-familiar list of wants and needs, Baltimore County residents went before the school board last night, asking for their share of the $622.9 million operating budget proposed for the 1996-1997 school year.
About 50 residents asked for more textbooks, teachers, supplies, nurses and more and better technology. The annual budget hearing is the board's primary opportunity to hear how residents want them to allocate the federal, state and county funds that make up the budget.
The board will approve a spending plan Feb. 27 and send it to the county executive and County Council for final action.
Some speakers last night listed concerns, such as overcrowding at Featherbed Lane Elementary, that are outside the boundaries of the operating budget. Others applauded the budget approach taken by interim Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione this year.
"The budget before you begins to address the needs" of the 102,000-student school system, said Ray Suarez, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County.
The budget asks for more than $14 million for raises for all employees and a restructured salary scale to make teachers' salaries more competitive with those in nearby districts.
"Dr. Marchione has listened to us. He has put his money where his mouth is," said Maripat Kahle, a parent from Pot Spring Elementary School.
Ms. Kahle's biggest complaint was, however, costly magnet programs in elementary and middle schools, which she urged the school system to eliminate.
Although parents from Featherbed Lane, Summit Park and Randallstown elementaries and the Ridge/Ruxton school for youngsters with disabilities asked for additional staffing, the pleas to reduce class size were not as numerous as they have been at the past two budget hearings. Dr. Marchione is trying to address that need with 235 more teaching positions, mainly for elementary schools, to return classes to their 1992 levels.
Edna O'Connor, principal of an alternative program for disruptive students housed at Lansdowne Middle School, brought several of her students to help her lobby for more space for the fledgling program and adequate funding for all the county's alternative programs.
"I don't see the funding of alternative schools as a budget priority," the principal said.
Originally planned for the Rolling Road Center in Catonsville, the middle school program for students in the southwest and northwest county had to move to cramped quarters at Lansdowne when the larger Rolling Road Center was needed for the Catonsville Alternative High School program.