ANNE ARUNDEL County's school board is in an unusual position this year. Of all the major metropolitan jurisdictions, it is the only one forced to substantially reduce its budget for the next fiscal year.
The final education budget of $454 million is $14 million more than last year's. County Executive John G. Gary, however, rejected the $50 million increase the board sought. Now the board must reduce spending to the level approved by the County Council.
In Howard County, County Executive Charles I. Ecker cut the county school budget slightly so he could trim the county's property tax rate by a few pennies. In Baltimore County, the school board and County Executive Dutch C.A. Ruppersberger developed a mutual spending plan.
The standard practice has been for school boards to ask for large increases, and elected officials to cut back those requests. These "cuts" are not reductions from current spending levels. Instead, the school boards don't get to spend as much as they wanted.
Still, trimming is not a easy task.
Judging from suggestions made at a marathon 12-hour meeting last week, Anne Arundel board members are at sea. They seek substantial efficiencies by combining schools with too few students, but these suggestions can't be implemented by the start of the school year in late August.
Since board members objected to a number of the 43 cuts that school Superintendent Carol S. Parham initially suggested, they should direct her to compile a list of alternative cuts that meet their criteria. The superintendent and her lieutenants have intimate knowledge of the education budget that board members lack.
These reductions, even those intended to have the least impact on the classrooms, will be felt. Some repairs will take months to complete or won't be done at all.
As long as Anne Arundel's tax cap is in place, the school board can expect similar exercises in the future unless it works more closely with the county executive.
Pub Date: 6/23/98