CUMBERLAND — A fiscal 2012 budget of more than $109 million — described as one with all the fat cut out and starting to slice bone — was presented to the Allegany County Board of Education on Wednesday for consideration.

Superintendent David Cox called the budget process devastating in light of $6.5 million cut in state funds. “We expected to be down some because of fewer students, but not like this,” Cox said.

A complicated formula, greatly impacted by property tax assessments, actually indicates that there is more wealth per student in Allegany County than in other Maryland counties, resulting in additional loss of funds, the educator said.

Only Garrett and Kent counties had greater percentage losses of state funds.

By eliminating 50 positions during the past three years, including 15 this year, a way has been found to maintain existing after-school programs, according to Randy Bittinger, director of finance. Those programs, which offer latch-key students supervised activities after classes, but before their parents return home, had been in jeopardy.

“The board has been on the forefront of austerity measures,” Bittinger said. He challenged anybody in earshot to think of another government entity that has dealt with yearly funding reductions as has the BOE.

A declining enrollment is one culprit in loss of funds. The student population is about 8,500, down by 555 from a year ago, officials said.

The county’s appropriation to the school board, which was $28,240,000 a year ago, has been sliced by $140,000.

Board president Mike Llewellyn said Wednesday he is concerned that a recent property tax rate reduction enacted in the county, though small, may mean even further loss of county funding a year from now.

The new budget includes a 1 percent increase in teacher salaries.

The teachers had negotiated a 2 percent increase, but came forward offering to take the smaller amount because of economic difficulties being experienced with the BOE.

“It shows they put the students ahead of themselves,” Llewellyn said.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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