Princes George's School Superintendent Edward J. Feeney is predicting an enrollment drop of nearly 6,000 next fall, a prediction that has led him to propose the elimination of 178 teaching, administrative and custodial positions.
But even with those cuts, which Feeney said he expected to be eliminated through attrition, other costs will push the spending program ahead of last year's.
When schools open in September, Feeney said in his budget message to the bord of education, Prince George's expects an enrollment of 133,000, 4.3 per cent less than the current year. However, budget increases will be needed to fund cost-of-living pay increases for current staff and hiring of additional teachers for special education programs, for a new science center and as monitors of discipline centers in junior high schools.
In a letter to school board chairman Norman H. Saunders, Feeney called the proposed fiscal package "a realistic budget that will permit us to reach our educational goals."
Additional savings would be possible, Feeney said, if the school board decides to close more schools because of underenrollment. Feeney, however, included no savings estimates in the budget presentation.
"We purposely have not prejudged the issue of school closings in the preparation of our budget," Feeney said. "We don't know what decisions will be made next spring by our board and we don't want anyone to think that we know. It's simply not realistic to include any estimates on that subject."
Because of the declining enrollment, Feeney said, the school system can eliminate 189 teaching, supervisory or administrative jobs, 19 clerical jobs and 25 custodial positions.
However, additional teachers needed for special education and other areas will bring the net reduction to 178 positions.
In special education, Feeney is seeking 30 additional teachers and 20 teacher aides for an expanded program next fall for children with learning disabilities.
This is estimated to add $484,720 to the budget, but will be partially offset by savings of $310,000 the county now pays in private school tuition for learning-disabled children. Those children are expected to be enrolled in public school programs next year.
In an attempt to reduce class size in junior high schools, Feeney is seeking an additional 33 teachers, as well as 12 more to supervise discipline centers for disruptive students.
The discipline centers, set up this year on an experimental basis, are designed to reduce suspensions at a time of increasing problems with unruly students.
Instead of being suspended, students are assigned to a discipline center where they are isolated from the rest of their classmates and where they work under the close supervision of a teacher assigned fulltime to the center. Students at the discipline center are not allowed to participate in student activities, are barred from eating lunch in the school cafeteria and are not allowed to leave the center unless accompanied by a teacher.
Feeney also is seeking 11 new staff positions for the Howard B. Owens Science Center which is to open in the fall.
With the exception of the additions outlined, Feeney's proposed budget contains no new educational spending proposals. In preparing the budget, staff members were instructed to submit no requests for new prograams or program improvement unless cuts were made elsewhere to pay for the improvements on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
The biggest single dollar jump in Feeney's budget is for salaries and fringe benefits, which do not include cost-of-living increases. More than $5 million already has been added to current salary totals because of teachers' regular advancements on the salary schedule for length of service and for advanced degrees. Fringe benefits are up by $2.3 million.
The budget proposal does not estimate what any cost-of-living agreement, to be negotiated with the Prince George's Educators Association, might be. However, in fiscal 1978 the cost-of-living agreement added $11.5 million to the total package.