Charles County Public Schools Superintendent James E. Richmond unveiled an annual budget proposal this week that would increase overall school funding by 11 percent.
The $184.5 million spending plan for the 2003-04 school year reflects an $18.3 million increase over the current budget. The proposal maintains current programs and addresses projected changes such as an increase in student enrollment, new federal education mandates and staff for the scheduled August opening of the new swimming pool at Henry E. Lackey High School.
In presenting the budget proposal the school board at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, Paul Balides, executive director of budget and financial management, said that an estimated 629 additional students will enroll next year, about a 2.7 percent increase over the 23,459 in classes this year.
As a result, student transportation costs in the proposed budget will increase by $690,000 to cover four new bus routes and one new bus for special education students. In addition, 17 buses would be replaced and bus operators are in line for a cost-of-living pay increase.
Inside the classroom, Richmond is seeking to spend $1.35 million to hire 29 more teachers to handle the enrollment increase and keep class sizes down.
Other instructional requests include $3.73 million to address the No Child Left Behind Act. The federal education law requires that students demonstrate proficiency in reading, math and other subjects annually on state tests.
Plans for those funds include adding four reading teachers who would work with students performing below grade level at Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, Thomas L. Higdon, Gustavus Brown and Arthur Middleton elementary schools. In addition, Jenifer and C. Paul Barnhart elementary schools would each receive an early education teacher to offer more personalized instruction in grades K-3. Four high schools would also receive additional teaching staff for the special education program.
Richmond is seeking $833,500 to fund a new data system that will collect student information to meet the reporting requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act.
The state's contribution to the budget is projected at $86.5 million, an increase of $14.5 million; and the county share is $95.4 million, up $3.75 million, the minimum amount allowed by law, according to documents accompanying the superintendent's spending plan.
The Board of Education held a public hearing on the budget Tuesday night, just hours after it was first publicly released. Just before the hearing was to begin, it appeared that no one had signed up to speak, said schools spokeswoman Katie O'Malley-Simpson.
School board members will hold a budget work session next Tuesday, and are scheduled to vote on the plan that day. Board members did not ask questions at Tuesday's meeting but Chairman Kathy Levanduski instructed them to forward comments in writing to the budget staff.
The school budget must be submitted to the county commissioners by April 1. School budgets in Calvert and St. Mary's are currently under consideration by county officials.