Mayor Marion Barry and D.C. City Council Chairman David A. Clarke said yesterday they have agreed to support a compromise $326 million operating budget for the public schools next year.
The politically sensitive proposal--$7.5 million more than Barry initially sought, but $10 million less than the board requested--is one of Clarke's proposed amendments to Barry's $1.9 billion fiscal 1984 budget that the council is expected to vote on today.
If the agreement on the level of funding for schools is approved by the council, it would be a major change from last year's budget battle in which the schools received $26 million more than Barry initially proposed.
At today's council meeting, member Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large), chairman of the council's education committee who has suggested the schools receive $334 million, may seek to increase the amount the system would receive under the Clarke-Barry plan, sources said yesterday.
"Of course, we will be disappointed," said School Superintendent Floretta McKenzie, who said she had not been informed of the compromise budget mark. "We will do everything we can to maintain the instructional integrity for the children."
In a report Friday, D.C. Auditor Otis Troupe suggested the schools would need $321.5 million--$4.5 million less than the compromise proposal--to maintain its current level of services.
In presenting his budget recommendations, Clarke endorsed several other budget changes suggested by individual council committee chairmen, including restoration of most of the funds Barry had cut from General Public Assistance, school transit subsidies and job training, health and housing programs.
Clarke said he would support Barry's controversial proposal to save $12 million by requiring Pepco to spread proportionately to all electricity users the cost of street lighting. That measure had been opposed by some council members.
Annette Samuels, Barry's press secretary, said the mayor has only endorsed Clarke's school proposal and declined comment on other changes. Barry said at a press conference last Thursday that he was sticking with his original budget, including the school funds.
Clarke said yesterday that the school agreement "follows a week of consultations between members of the council," Barry and himself.
Barry initially proposed $318.5 million for the school's operating budget for next year, a $12 million increase over the current year. Barry said that the school system, like other city agencies, had to adjust to hard times and a declining enrollment.
School officials, seeking an increase of $30 million to $336.5 million, have said that anything less could result in teacher layoffs or program cutbacks.
Privately, school board president David H. Eaton had suggested $330 million as the board's "bottom line," although one city official familiar with the school's negotiations said the board at one point considered dropping to $328 million.
"The $330 million was a real figure for the board," McKenzie said yesterday. Eaton could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Clarke said that students of the city's schools have made academic progress, but he faulted officials for poor management. For example, he said, $23 million "is being spent to provide energy to and maintain space unoccupied by students." In addition, Clarke said, the board transferred $7 million in unspent personnel funds to other uses.
Overall, Clarke's proposals would add about $5 million to Barry's budget. The chairman suggested the city could begin a new lottery game early to cover $2.5 million of that increase. He said $3 million could be raised by unspecified changes to make the city's income tax law conform more exactly with the federal code.
In addition, Clarke said Barry had overestimated city energy costs by almost $4 million, expected interest on loans by about $3 million and expected costs to pay court settlements by $1 million. graphics/photo: HILDA MASON ...may seek more than $7.5 million increase