School board OKs $931M operating budget for 2008-09

The Baltimore Sun

The Anne Arundel County Board of Education has approved a $931 million operating budget and a $139 million capital budget for the 2008-2009 school year, matching the allocation approved in May by the county council.

The school system's operating budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 funds agreements in place with all four employee unions, as well as the opening of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) magnet program at North County High School.

In addition, it allows for the addition of 44 positions in special education and the hiring of 12 additional school-based secretaries, 12 custodians and four teachers for English language learners.

Funding is also provided to restore 150 teaching positions, as announced by Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell on May 30. Eighty-nine of those positions have been reallocated to schools.

"I am very pleased that, thanks to the work of the County Council, we have been able to do as much for our children as we have in this budget," board president Tricia Johnson said. "We all realize these are tough times and that money is tight. But the council has given us the ability to continue moving our school system forward."

The budget includes $584.6 million in county funding, about 7 percent or $40 million more than the current year. The school system had requested $622 million from the county.

Maxwell said after Wednesday's 7-0 board vote that the school system will struggle with the lack of funding for more secretaries and custodians. Custodians in Anne Arundel County schools have to clean more square footage than their counterparts in surrounding counties, prompting high turnover, Maxwell said.

"That's an issue that's still there," he said.

The county school board approved $8.3 million in changes to the operating budget to make up for rising utility costs, less compensation from Medicaid for special education services and increased retirement benefits, said Susan Bowen, director of budget and finance for the school system. Part of the increase comes from ballooning gas and electricity rates, which necessitated a $2 million increase in earmarks.

The county made up for the changes by eliminating 80 nonclassroom positions, which will save the school system $4.2 million. Those jobs include central office administrators, resource teachers, secretaries, bus drivers and other workers.

They are a mix of filled and vacant positions, and it won't be clear until mid-July how many people will lose their jobs, Bowen said.

The county will save an additional $5 million by cutting back on supplies, equipment and contracted services for workshops and other activities.

The capital budget approved by the board provides funding for the new Nantucket Elementary School, replacement projects at Freetown and Pershing Hill elementary schools, and renovations at Severna Park Middle School and Southgate and Overlook elementaries.

It also provides funding for design work at Northeast High School, and feasibility studies at Annapolis, Belle Grove, Germantown, Folger McKinsey, and Point Pleasant elementary schools and the Phoenix Center.

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