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$871 million school budget passes unanimously

The Baltimore Sun

Despite weeks of decrying dire choices, Anne Arundel County school board members passed unanimously an $871 million budget without cutting a job or eliminating any existing programs.

The school board also approved a $132.6 million capital budget that school facilities officials said left in limbo many key construction projects that could accommodate military family growth over the next three years.

Through cuts to more than a dozen areas, the district scraped together $13.5 million to balance its operating budget. Some measures included freezing 100 central office and teaching positions left empty through turnover, cutting conference travel expenses and making classrooms warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter to hold the line on utility costs.

School board member Enrique Melendez praised Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell for "making our job easy on the board."

But school board vice president Euguene Peterson expressed dismay at the lack of dialogue among school and county leaders. "What we have here is a failure to communicate," Peterson said.

Over the last two months, school and county officials have engaged in a bitter public battle over funding. The school system complained about not receiving the 17 percent or $133 million increase it had sought.

The money would have helped the district hire dozens more social workers, counselors and psychologists who school officials said would help alleviate some of the home issues that get in the way of academic success.

Meanwhile county officials, who granted the district an 8 percent increase in the budget May 31, said the schools had to rein in administrative costs.ruma.kumar@baltsun.com

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