Calvert County Public Schools Superintendent James R. Hook presented his preliminary budget estimates for fiscal 2001 on Friday, calling for $7.5 million to finance a new middle school, 29 additional teachers and scheduled salary increases.

Hook's preliminary projections, presented to school board members during a work session Friday, do not take into account a cap on additional funding that county commissioners said they would try to impose in budget deliberations for the coming year.

Earlier this month, the county commissioners voted to limit additional county funding for public schools in fiscal 2001 to no more than a 2 percent increase over the current budget. Such a limit would mean that the school system could receive $1.8 million over the $58.9 million allotted by a state formula that requires the county to spend at least the same amount per pupil it spent the previous year while taking into account increasing enrollment.

But although he has not yet projected a total budget figure for the coming year, Hook said Friday that the budget cap won't stop him from asking for what he says he needs. "What I plan to do is go about business as usual," he said.

Acknowledging that the county may appropriate only an additional $1.8 million and the state about $1.5 million more, Hook went ahead and presented his school budget wish list.

Hook's preliminary budget projections allocated $1.2 million for 29 additional teachers to accommodate the growing student population; $2.6 million for salary increases, including those required by the teachers' contract; $400,000 for bus contracts; and $1.3 million to open the new Mill Creek Middle School.

"I don't think we can tell anyone that we're not going to open Mill Creek Middle School, and we can't renegotiate the teachers' contract," said school board member William J. Phalen Sr.

These expenditures--the ones Hook calls necessary--add up to $5.5 million.

Hook said his new staffing initiatives, totaling $2 million, could possibly lose out in the months-long bargaining process ahead. Those initiatives include full-time nurses for high schools, new department chairperson positions, and class-size reductions for the second grade and secondary English and language classes.

"It might be a situation, to be honest, [in which] we can't put any of these in," he said.

School board members also weighed in with their thoughts on what the budget priorities should be.

Board of Education President Robert L. Gray said the budget should address the state's High School Assessment exams that seniors starting with the class of 2005 will be required to pass before graduating, either through after-school programs or remedial classes.

Ruth T. Keimig said the budget should address the need for better technology in the schools.

Hook said he was optimistic that he would receive a healthy portion of what he will request.

"I'm not particularly discouraged at this point because I feel we can justify this need, and the public will see that," he said.