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$684 million requested by school board; Budget plan includes raises for county's veteran teachers


The Baltimore County school board approved last night a $684 million spending proposal for 1999-2000 that includes large raises for veteran teachers to encourage them to keep teaching.

The operating budget -- which seeks a 5.8 percent spending increase -- expands the system's focus on early reading instruction by adding 80 teachers to decrease the size of reading classes in lower-performing elementary schools.

The budget proposal goes to County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger and the County Council for their approval this spring.

The operating budget nearly doubles the 3 percent increase that the school system received this year. A spokeswoman for Ruppersberger said the executive wants to examine the board's request before commenting on whether he will fully fund it.

It is uncertain whether the school system will obtain money for all of the extra reading teachers. While 45 of the teachers would come from federal funding, Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione is hoping that funding for the other 35 reading teachers -- as well as 15 new middle school math teachers -- will come from the governor's proposed class-size reduction program.

It is possible that the governor and General Assembly will not make funding for the program available for the 1999-2000 school year, and Marchione has said that the school system won't hire all of the math and reading teachers without the state funding.

Much of the budget plan remained unchanged from what Marchione proposed a month ago -- including the four-year salary agreement with the teachers union to increase the pay of teachers with more than 15 years of experience. By the end of the four years, some teachers will see their salaries increase by more than 12 percent.

Other highlights of the budget include 10 new elementary guidance counselors, extra staffing for special education programs and $750,000 to begin a five-year, $3 million plan to replace aging musical instruments.

Last night, board members added two administrative positions to the budget, creating an office of grants with a full-time grant writer and adding another internal auditor.

Board members delayed adding extra positions to the system's facilities department. While they agreed that more people are needed to manage the huge amounts of school repair money, they decided to wait for a county study to be completed this spring.

The board also kept $350,000 in the budget for a program to help reduce teacher turnover at low-performing schools. The superintendent has proposed using that money to pay $3,500 annual bonuses to 100 teachers in 23 schools -- a plan opposed by the teachers union.

Board members did not discuss the details of how that money would be spent.

Pub Date: 2/24/99

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