Budget plan includes raises for teachers

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Baltimore County teachers would get a raise for the second consecutive year under the 2005-2006 school year operating budget that Superintendent Joe A. Hairston proposed to the school board last night.

The $994 million budget request is an 8 percent, or $73 million, increase over the current school year's budget. It includes money to expand full-day kindergarten, preschool and college-readiness programs.

The increase is the biggest that Hairston has requested in four years. Like superintendents in Anne Arundel and Harford counties, who are proposing even larger percentage increases, Hairston says his district needs the additional money largely to meet the increasing demands of the state's Thornton plan, the federal No Child Left Behind Act and rising health care costs.

Hairston budgeted $23 million for staff compensation increases, an additional $14 million for health insurance, $10 million in step increases and $564,000 for assistant principals' salaries.

School district officials said yesterday that most of the $23 million would go toward raises for the district's 8,000 teachers. They declined to say how much because of continuing union negotiations. They said they have increased the money for teachers' salaries by 4 percent.

After two years with no cost-of-living increases for county employees, teachers received, on average, a 4 percent raise this school year.

Hairston's proposal asks for a bigger increase in money from the state than from the county, a reflection of rising state aid from the Thornton plan, a $1.3 billion initiative to increase Maryland spending on public schools.

Under Hairston's proposal, the county would fund 60 percent of the budget, down from 62 percent this year. The state would fund 39 percent, and 1 percent would come from other sources.

Thornton requires school districts to have full-day kindergarten for all children and preschool for children meeting eligibility requirements by the 2007-2008 school year.

Hairston's budget proposes adding full-day kindergarten at Carney, Gunpowder, Hampton, Hillcrest, Joppa View, Perry Hall, Pine Grove, Pot Spring, Warren and Woodbridge elementary schools. That would leave the district to phase in full-day kindergarten at 19 other schools over the next two years.

Hairston also answered the call of special-education advocates to add to the staff of the county's Infants and Toddlers Program, which provides services such as speech and physical therapy to children with disabilities. He budgeted $345,800 to add four full-time positions.

Hairston asks for $1.1 million to expand Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), an academic support program that primarily serves students who would be the first in their families to attend college. The district now has AVID at 11 high schools, and the money would allow it to expand to five more: Dulaney, Chesapeake, Catonsville, Eastern Technical and Sparrows Point.

The budget would create assistant principal positions at six elementary schools - Chesapeake Terrace, Harford Hills, Middlesex, Martin Boulevard, Carroll Manor and Fifth District - meaning each of the county's 104 elementary schools would have an assistant principal. It would continue funding for Maryland's Tomorrow, a dropout-prevention program for which a grant is expiring.

A public hearing on the spending plan is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 26 at Ridge-Ruxton School, 6916 Charles St. The school board is scheduled to study the budget at a Feb. 1 work session and vote on it Feb. 22.

The board would then send the proposal to County Executive James T. Smith Jr., who can make changes before sending it to the County Council for a final vote. The council can cut the budget but not add to it.

The operating budget does not include construction costs, which are detailed in the capital budget. Hairston's total proposed spending - operating and capital - is $1.3 billion.

Last night, the school board approved Hairston's capital budget request for county funds, including $3 million for land acquisition that could be used to buy property for a new high school to relieve crowding in Perry Hall and Towson. The board approved a capital budget request for state funds in the fall.

The school district planned to post Hairston's budget proposal on its Web site, www.bcps.org, by today.

Budget additions

Baltimore County Superintendent Joe A. Hairston's proposed operating budget includes:

$858,000 for 12,500 new Algebra 1 textbooks.

$982,500 to staff Woodholme Elementary School, scheduled to open in the fall.

$1.3 million in startup costs for Windsor Mill Middle School, scheduled to open in fall of next year.

$1.9 million to cover increased utility costs.

$201,000 for 72 new buses, mostly to replace old ones.

Source: Baltimore County Public Schools

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