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Cuts to Harford Co. schools expected

The Baltimore Sun

The Harford County school board abruptly canceled last night's budget work session, with officials saying they learned yesterday that County Executive David R. Craig will order "massive reductions" to the school budget.

The amount was "nothing near what we requested," said board President Mark M. Wolkow, who, with other school officials, was briefed on the budget yesterday. "It means we really have to cut back."

Officials would not disclose figures from Craig's proposed budget, which will be unveiled today. The school system requested about $415 million in operating funds for the next fiscal year, including $210 million from the county.

"These cuts will have a major impact on our operating budget and on our capital improvements," said board Vice President Thomas L. Fidler Jr. "It is extremely disconcerting and, regretfully, this will set the tone for the entire school system for the next few years."

School officials sought a $21 million increase - or 11 percent - over last year's budget to pay for opening the Patterson Mill middle and high school complex in the fall, hiring more than 100 teachers and offsetting the spiraling costs of special education. If fully funded, the increase would be the second-largest received by the system in the past decade.

The board was set to approve the 2008 fiscal year operating budget last night before announcing the cancellation of the meeting in a news release. Another meeting was set for Wednesday.

County spokeswoman Roxanne Lynch declined to comment yesterday on the school system's news release.

Not all agencies are preparing for a hit to their budget request. Though declining to mention details, Sheriff L. Jesse Bane said he was "pleased" with a meeting he had with Craig yesterday to discuss budget matters.

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