Montgomery County School Board members last week, irritable from months of trying to cut Superintendent Edward Andrews' proposed $338 million budget, ended up squabbling over their own spending money for next year.
The tiff was the latest between conservatives who dominate the board and liberal Blair Ewing, who is trying to back the budget-cutters into a corner.
It began near midnight when Ewing launched his annual unsuccessful campaign to cut the board's own expense account. First, Ewing suggested they cut $4,000 from the proposed $10,000 out-of-state travel budget. His motion died for lack of a second.
Next, Ewing made a motion to slash $7,000 from the $20,000 proposed for the board's in-state travel budget. The cut would allow each of the seven members $700 for mileage, plus a little left over for in-state hotels, he said. Ewing reasoned that since he lived the farthest from the board offices and his travel cost him just $50 a month in mileage, the $13,000 budget would be more than adequate. This time he managed to get a second, but when the vote came he stood alone in favor.
Undaunted, Ewing then moved to cut $3,500 from the in-state travel funds; it failed. Then, $1,000. That failed too. How about $50? Ewing asked. Someone called the motion "frivolous."
"It is not frivolous," Ewing insisted. "I just want to show that this board is totally unwilling to cut its own budget."
Conservative board member Carol Wallace was furious. "When I figured out my salary $7,200 a year , I made less than 17 1/2 cents an hour. When I was board president, it dropped to 12 cents an hour."
Wallace then brought up some peeves of her own. She and the other "females" on the board, she said, were carrying the brunt of the work. Wallace apparently was referring to the fact that none of the five women on the school board has an outside job like Ewing and Joseph Barse do.
"We're the ones sitting there at the county council meeting . . . trying to get money for the budget. And for someone to sit here and tell us how to spend our money (after having all of these motions fail) . . . is ludicrous!"
Ewing countered: "The quality of the board's decisions has gone down in the past three years and you're part of the reason why. The more time you spend, the worse it gets!"