School funds cut, fees increased Board rejects merger as device to save money


Bates and Annapolis middle schools won't be merged to save money, as two Anne Arundel County school board members had suggested, but teachers and students will have to do with fewer supplies and school buses and pay more fees for athletics and other programs in the fall.

During a daylong meeting yesterday, the board finished cutting $9 million from its budget for the fiscal year that begins tomorrow. Board members said they needed to make the cuts because the $454 million education budget approved in May by the County Council does not meet basic operating expenses.

"I can't pretend about what this all means," Superintendent Carol S. Parham told board members, parents and students at the board meeting. "What this means is that we won't be moving ahead anymore. we will be struggling just to keep up."

At a meeting two weeks ago, the board cut $5.8 million by imposing hiring freezes for custodians and central office workers, eliminating and reducing overtime pay and sending 13 of 52 middle school resource teachers back into classroom jobs. Resource teachers run enrichment programs in middle schools.

At that meeting, board members Michael McNelly and Thomas E. Florestano asked the budget office to estimate how much could be saved by merging Bates and Annapolis middle schools, both of which are under-enrolled.

But yesterday, representatives from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Bates parents and students arrived waving handmade signs protesting the proposal. The board voted against the merger -- as well as combining the two technology schools in north and south county -- because the moves could delay school openings and savings from them were unclear.

"It was quite evident a few weeks ago that we needed to put everything on the table to see if it was fiscally responsible to combine the schools," McNelly said. "But now it is evident to me that this cannot be done in this fiscal year."

"We can't have all these empty seats in Annapolis," said Vaughn Brown. "If we do the middle school study this year and there is a report in December, we better be willing to deal with it then."

Parham, who described making the budget cut recommendations as the most "painful" time in her career, said these cuts will have a long-term impact on the school system.

Yesterday, the board cut another $400,000 from its maintenance budget and took $500,000 from its budget for instructional materials, such as textbooks. At the meeting two weeks ago, the board refused to touch that portion of the budget.

In other action, the board:

Eliminated after-school activity buses that operated two days a week at middle schools, for a $120,000 savings.

Imposed a $50 fee to participate in athletics.

Imposed a $10 fee for band, chorus and after-school activities.

Cut $61,000 from the athletic bus transportation fund.

Rearranged closing times at some of the county's 76 elementary schools to eliminate 20 bus routes and save $80,000.

Cut pay for some administrative and support services employees for a $500,000 savings.

Pub Date: 6/30/98

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