Montgomery County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist expressed strong disapproval yesterday of the county school board's newly adopted $372.4 million budget request, which is $8 million over what Gilchrist had proposed.
At the same time, Gilchrist said he was "very anxious for the board to honor its contract" with schoolteachers. In approving the budget early yesterday, board members had said the 5.2 percent, or $18.3 million, increase over this year's budget was the minimum amount needed to finance the cost-of-living increase negotiated last year with the system's teachers.
Gilchrist, through his spokesman Edmond F. Rovner, said he thought the board could cut its budget and still have enough money for county teachers. He would not give specific suggestions.
The school board's budget, which the County Council and Gilchrist may cut, contains few major program changes or improvements, but reflects a substantial shift away from the educational philosophy of the previous board.
The old board had used budget deliberations to strengthen positions related directly to traditional classroom instruction, including hiring more teachers. The current board, during the past week's budget deliberations, emphasized that auxiliary school aides, such as career and college counselors and library media assistants, had been neglected by the previous board and should be an integral part of education.
Time after time last week, board members turned down proposals by the remaining members of the once-powerful conservative coalition to add more teachers. Instead, they added a number of audiovisual aides and eight elementary school counselors, a move backed heavily for the last two years by principals.
"We want to teach these students how to lead a good life," board member Robert Shoenberg said at one point, remarking that there appeared to be two different educational philosophies represented by the board.
Although Gilchrist said he hoped to honor the teachers' 5 percent cost-of-living raise, at least one council member said yesterday he would consider asking the board to renegotiate the two-year contract approved last year. According to school officials, the cost-of-living raise represents 80 percent of the increase in next year's budget.
"It seems to me that if you look at Fairfax teachers' salaries or our own county employes, that renegotiating would not be out of the question," said council member William Hanna. "This year and next year, Montgomery countians have to face the unhappy fact that Montgomery County is not insulated from the rest of the world and everyone has to pull in their belt."
In Fairfax County, the board of education approved this week a $449.5 million budget that gives teachers a 3 percent raise.
The Montgomery school board approved the budget yesterday by 5 to 1, with one member absent. Board member Marian Greenblatt, who voted against the budget, called it "fiscally irresponsible" and said the real decisions would have to be made in May when the council returns the budget to the board for modification.