Struggling to reconcile higher head counts with lower funding, the Frederick County Board of Education plans to seek a $30 million budget increase next year.
Heading a long list of places to put the extra cash are plans for a new high school, funding for all-day kindergarten and other state-mandated programs and a pay hike for teachers, whose salaries lag behind most teachers in the state. The board will seek public comments on the budget at a meeting at 7 tonight at the Board of Education complex at 7630 Hayward Rd. in Frederick.
In a summary of its request, the board said the additional funds are necessary to maintain services at their current levels as enrollment grows by an anticipated 749 students during the 2003-2004 school year. The projected expansion includes Tuscarora High School's opening, planned for the fall. The board also seeks an increase to pay start-up costs for the new high school and to prepare to introduce all-day kindergarten.
"It's going to be a tough budget year" in Maryland, said Marita Stup-Loose, Frederick County public schools spokeswoman. "This increase is what we really need to do the job we should for the community."
Teacher salaries are a particular concern for school officials. The county ranks in the bottom third statewide, making it difficult to hire and retain teachers. Last year, the cash-strapped system limited raises to an across-the-board 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment. Frederick officials want to bring salaries up to the top one-third statewide.
The board will incorporate public comments into its final budget proposal, which the Board of County Commissioners will vote on Feb. 26. The commissioners will hold a public hearing on their approved version of the school budget May 6 and will adopt the final budget in June.
County residents unable to attend tonight's meeting can contact the school board by mail at 115 E. Church Street, Frederick, Md. 21701; by phone, 301-696-6850; or by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. To ensure that the board receives citizen comments before Feb. 26, they should be sent by Feb. 21.
The new budget requests include:
* Salary increases: $4.1 million to cover an across-the-board cost-of-living increase for staff.
* Enrollment growth-related costs: $4.9 million for increased costs associated with the enrollment of 749 new students for the 2003-04 school year and materials, equipment and supplies for the new Tuscarora High School, slated to open in the fall.
* Continuation of effort: $4.7 million to cover rising maintenance fees, new buses, new equipment and spending necessary to comply with grant and contractual requirements.
* Restored cuts: $600,000 to restore money lost during one-time budget cuts made from several departments last year at the county's request.
* Resources and services for students: $2.7 million for replacement textbooks, a state-mandated plan to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through second grade, additional teaching staff for elementary and high schools, a new special education teacher, a school psychologist, a new school security director, and expansion of gifted and talented student programs.
* Staff development: $1.9 million for additional workdays for teachers and administrators, salary increases and feeder improvement programs.
* Staff recruitment and retention: $10.2 million for salary increases, reclassification of support jobs, new personnel positions and three new professional development sites.
* Administrative and technological resources: $778,000 for e-mail and telecommunications equipment and services, three new technology services positions, athletic field renovations, a new accountant position and 10 facilities services jobs.