Howard County School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey is cutting his $200.8 million budget proposal by $10.5 million, a reduction that could produce layoffs, he said yesterday.

Hickey said that 59 jobs, most of them administrative, will be eliminated and that "there will be some layoffs" if those workers cannot be reassigned.

"I'm asking for a lot of understanding and cooperation from the staff and the community," Hickey said yesterday. "We've never had to look at a cut of this magnitude."

Hickey's revised budget package would halve the gifted and talented program in the system's middle schools by reassigning the 12 teachers.

The new budget plan would also eliminate a plan to create a seven-period day for all the county's high schools, trim by 70 percent the funds for sending teachers to staff development and training workshops and wipe out funds that in the past have been used to add teachers at schools with unforeseen enrollment spurts.

The superintendent made the cuts after County Executive Charles I. Ecker asked that the original school budget be trimmed by $12 million because of the county's financial crisis. Hickey said he is waiting to see how much the school system receives from the state before deciding whether to cut the additional $1.5 million.

Hickey is requesting a $6.5 million increase in county funding, an amount that he said would allow the system to take on two new schools, 1,300 additional students and 160 more teachers.

"It has been an excruciating process," said Deborah D. Kendig, chairman of the Howard County school board. "Education at all levels is people. And when you have to eliminate jobs, it's painful."

School officials said they decided to cut as few programs as possible. Hickey said that only 4.8 percent of the reductions will directly affect instruction.

"We decided that the very first criterion was that we were going to try to have the least direct impact as possible on the classroom -- the students and the teachers," Associate Superintendent Joan Palmer said.

Hickey said that he hopes layoffs can be avoided by placing administrative workers in teaching or clerical jobs in the new elementary school near Clarksville and the new middle school in Waterloo.

Rosemary Mortimer, president of the Howard County PTA Council, said that while "no cuts are welcomed . . . none of these cuts are unexpected."

"There were some very difficult choices to be made. And we think he {Hickey} is doing a decent job of doing that," Mortimer added.

Eliminate 59 positions, most of them administrative.

Cut by 50 percent the gifted and talented program in the system's middle schools.

Eliminate a plan to create a seven-period day in all county high schools.

Trim by 70 percent money used to send teachers to staff development and training workshops.

Eliminate funding for a pool of 35 to 40 teachers used to staff schools that experience unforeseen enrollment increases.