The Prince George's County school system came up with an unexpected $2.9 million surplus in funds yesterday that may offset budget cuts proposed by the County Council.
The Council already has trimmed $3 million from the school board's budget of $245 million and was looking for ways to trim approximately $3.5 million more. The newly discovered surplus may fend off a Council proposal to cut the negotiated cost-of-living increase for country teachers.
In a letter to Council Chairman William B. Amonett, School supt. Edward J. Feeney said the fund surplus came as a "result of significant and totally unanticipated revenue increases, as well as the result of efficient management."
Fenney said that the school system's unexpected bonus was the result of third quarter revenue increases in impact aid, expense aid, and interest and dividend money, and a $1.8 million reduction in expenditures stemming from "favorable weather-related reductions", an energy conservation program, and lower tuition costs for handicapped children in nonpublic schools.
While many council members praised Feeney for his "effective management," Council member Samuel W. Bogley expressed skepticism over the sudden "treasure" find. "It is amazing how close it comes to the $3.5 million they lost," he said.
Bogley said he felt the sudden discovery of the surplus funds was a device to enable the school board to fund the cost-of-living increases scheduled for teachers. The school board already faces a potential loss of 79 teacher because of budget reductions.
"I think that's what they're (the school board) attempting to avoid," said Bogley. "They are a bit gun shy about going against a negotiated settlement" with the teachers' union.
John R. Aubuchon, information officer for the school board, said yesterday that the school board is "being open and honest with the county government. We could have waited. We could have taken the option of identifying these extra monies and waited until the audit in the fall. But the superintendent felt strongly about telling the Council."
Feeney said he did not receive the information until last Friday, they day after the County Council said the might have to cut $3 million more from the school budget.