>From Staff Reports
The Cumberland Times-News Mon Mar 07, 2011, 11:43 PM EST
CUMBERLAND — Local public school officials are trying to do a little damage control on massive state funding cuts that loom on the horizon.
And they have asked state legislators for help.
Superintendents and finance directors from Allegany and Garrett County public schools traveled to Annapolis last week to testify in support of a bill that would cap at 7 percent the amount of state revenues a school district could lose in a year, as calculated by budget formulas.
Allegany County schools stand to lose $6.5 million in fiscal 2012, or more than 8 percent of state funds.
Garrett County schools are in line to lose about $2.4 million — closer to 10 percent.
The losses are due to declining enrollment and a wealth per-pupil state funding formula that measures real property values, personal property values and taxable income from tax returns.
In addition, the Budget Reconciliation and Finance Act of 2011 pending in the state legislature would reduce Allegany County’s state funding by another $1.3 million, school officials have said.
“What we’re trying to do is preserve some money for Allegany County and Garrett County, but it’s a statewide bill,” Sen. George Edwards said Friday. The bill would be effective for five years, he said.
“Garrett and Allegany are impacted this year, but other counties could be impacted next year.”
The legislation, if approved, would restore about $880,000 to Allegany County schools in fiscal 2012.
Last week, Allegany County Superintendent David Cox proposed a $109.6 million budget that includes the elimination of several programs that directly impact children.
On the chopping block are after-school programs at elementary and middle schools and a contract with Washington County that has allowed residents of Little Orleans to send their children to Washington County schools. The board is scheduled to vote on the proposed budget at its meeting today, then present it to the Allegany County Board of Commissioners later this month.
During testimony in Annapolis last week, Cox asked legislators to help avoid “further eroding the very support that has brought us tremendous gains in student achievement.”
“In our county, over half of our children receive free and reduced meals, and the median income is $39,000 per year,” Cox said. “It is hard to explain to your community that our wealth per pupil has increased due to utility company improvements and the relative stability of our real estate market, even though property values are not as high as in most other areas of the state.”
Cox and other school officials are scheduled to travel to Annapolis again Wednesday to give similar testimony in support of House Bill 937, which mirrors Senate Bill 495. No vote is expected until later this spring, Edwards said.
Allegany County Board of Education member Ed Root observed testimony before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee last week.
“I sat there and tried to read the committee, but they get numb after a day of all that testimony,” Root said. “It was hard to get a read on how well-received it was.”
Delegate Wendell Beitzel, who sponsored the House bill, said that delegations from Prince George’s County and Baltimore City schools are lobbying hard for additional funds for their school systems. That could bode well for Allegany and Garrett counties.
“There’s a lot of maneuvering going on,” Beitzel said, adding that legislators could very well approve those additional funds. “If they do that, then I think we’re entitled to get thrown in the mix.”
Contact Kristin Harty Barkley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Board to accept bids for South Penn pre-K addition, Allegany stage lights
CUMBERLAND — At its public meeting today at 7 p.m., the Allegany County Board of Education will accept a bid of $1,222,059 from the Frostburg-based firm Lashley Construction for construction of the pre-K addition at South Penn School.
Other bid items on the agenda include:
• Bus drop-off contract for West Side Elementary.
• Stage lighting at Allegany High School.
• S&S Electric Inc., $49,000 for replacement of emergency generator at Allegany High School.
• L&R Floors Inc. for carpet and floor tile replacement at various schools.
Also on the agenda:
• Recognition of the Fort Hill band for first place in the Maryland State Band Competition.
• Recognition of the students who participated in the All-State Chorus and Orchestra.
• Donation of computer equipment to Allconet.
The 5 p.m. work session includes the discussion of minimum standards for participation in athletics by athletics supervisor Tim Scaletta.
Other presentations include:
• Maintenance/construction update, Facilities Director Vince Montana.
• Building trades program extension, Harry Smith.
• Responding to public inquiries and complaints, Secondary Education Director Karen Bundy.
• Student schedules and course loads, Fort Hill High School Assistant Principal Ben Brauer.
• Library materials selection, Media Coordinator Lisa Stevenson.
Both meetings will be held at the Central Office, 108 Washington St.