The Anne Arundel County school board adopted a $1.02 billion operating budget last week for the next fiscal year that includes funding for employee pay increases and the money to open a new contract school.
But the panel criticized county government for taking money from the school system's health fund balance to foot those bills.
The board unanimously adopted the operating budget, which falls shy of the $1.04 billion proposal that interim Superintendent Mamie Perkins offered in December.
That plan recommended the addition of 75 positions across the system and $5.8 million to open the Monarch Global Academy Public Contract School in Laurel to ease overcrowding at Brock Bridge, Jessup and Maryland City elementary schools.
County Executive Laura Neuman, in her budget plan to the County Council, funded neither of those specific allocations, though she contended there was enough money in the overall school budget to provide for them.
The council subsequently shifted $5.3 million in the budget to accommodate Monarch Global, and school officials said they will counter the shortfall with attrition from three schools that will send students to Monarch.
The council also approved funding for 17.5 new positions; officials said 7.5 will go to expand the school system's BioMedical Allied Health magnet program at Glen Burnie High School, the Performing and Visual Arts magnet program at Annapolis and Broadneck high schools, and the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math magnet program at Old Mill Middle School South.
The school system said it will make internal adjustments to staff the launch of its second middle school STEM program, which will open at Lindale Middle School in August.
The budget also includes $23.2 million for employee compensation, including salary and step increases for members of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, as well as a 2 percent salary increase for other employees.
Still, school officials said county funding was just slightly more than what's required under the state-mandated per-pupil funding calculation known as maintenance of effort. The requirement says per-pupil funding for a school year must be at least the equivalent of that of the previous year, and it is targeted mainly to cover rises in enrollment.
School officials anticipate nearly 750 more students in the school system next year. Chief Operating Officer Alex Szachnowicz said that while the increased enrollment will likely be spread out across the county, some areas — particularly those marked by growth and development — could see growth in class sizes.
"We're not going to be able to send teachers their way; they're going to have absorb" the increases, Szachnowicz said.
Officials also noted that the county funded the budget, in part, with some $16.7 million from the school board's health care fund balance, which officials said addresses fluctuations in claims under the board's health care plan. School officials said the county, not the school system, is authorized to replenish the fund balance.
"They funded ongoing expenses with one-time money," said school board President Teresa Milio Birge. "That's going to be a problem in [fiscal year] 2016. It's not that they gave us additional money, it's that they said, 'This money is sitting there. We're going to use it for something else.' But we can't use it again because it's not there anymore."
Also Wednesday, school officials said incoming Superintendent George Arlotto has submitted a reorganization plan that eliminates the position of chief of staff — the job he held until being chosen as superintendent last month — and adds a new deputy superintendent, That job is to be filled by Maureen McMahon, the system's current assistant superintendent for advanced studies and programs. Arlotto and McMahon were among three finalists for the superintendent's position.
The new deputy superintendent will oversee such areas as curriculum and instruction, advanced studies and programs, and professional growth and development.
School officials said the new reorganization structure will go into effect July 1, when Arlotto's tenure begins.
Meanwhile, current Deputy Superintendent Arlen Liverman will oversee such areas as the Office of School Performance and Student Support Services, Equity and Accelerated Student Achievement.
Other appointments and moves approved by the board Wednesday include Mary Tillar, currently executive director of special education, to the position of assistant superintendent for advanced studies and programs; and Carol Ann McCurdy, currently senior manager for advanced studies and programs, to the post of director of partnerships, development and marketing.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun