Carroll seeking $16 million more for schools in fiscal '09

The Baltimore Sun

Carroll County school officials are seeking nearly $325 million for the 2009 fiscal year, about $16 million more than the current operating budget.

The proposed spending plan takes into account an estimated $5 million shortfall expected as a result of the special legislative session that reduced state education funding.

"The state revenue picture is not looking good," budget supervisor Andrew Sexton said during his presentation to the school board yesterday. "This isn't the worst [scenario], but it's certainly not a good one."

The plan includes more than 130 new positions, and rises in spending for utilities, student transportation and worker benefits.

The budget does not include pay raises, which will be added when negotiations with bargaining groups are finished. Step and cost-of-living increases are estimated at more than $5 million, according to Sexton's presentation.

Superintendent Charles I. Ecker requested about $2.4 million for more than 30 intervention positions, such as high school assessment support teachers, and elementary school math resource and Gifted-and-Talented Program resource teachers.

The superintendent's budget also sought about $1 million for some other positions, including seven special-education clerks and seven teachers to help reduce high school class sizes - an issue several board members have noted as a priority.

The expected state cuts kept Ecker from asking for even more teachers to reduce class sizes, he said.

"I'm concerned about what may happen during this legislative session to not only state funding but also county funding," Ecker said, referring to the possibility of counties losing more funding, which could in turn affect the school system.

Public budget hearings are scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 30 at North Carroll Middle School and 7 p.m. Feb. 20 at Westminster High School, where board members are expected to adopt the budget.

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