www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/carroll/westminster/ph-ce-boe-budget-0302-20140226,0,7745631.story

baltimoresun.com

Carroll BOE approves $331.9 million budget proposal

By Blair Ames, bames@tribune.com

4:42 PM EST, February 26, 2014

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Carroll County Board of Education members unanimously approved Superintendent Steve Guthrie's $331.9 million fiscal year 2015 budget proposal Wednesday, calling it a "very modest" and "conservative" budget.

"We definitely have more needs than we're asking for in this budget," Board member Barbara Shreeve said.

The budget now heads to the Board of County Commissioners for its review in the coming months.

Guthrie's budget called for a two percent increase, $3.27 million, in county funding from $163.5 million in fiscal 2014 to $166.77 million in FY2015.

The budget also allocates $5.9 million from the school system's approximately $15 million fund balance to fund a one-time, three percent bonus for employees.

The increase in county funding is intended to maintain current services and begin implementing portions of Guthrie's Vision 2018 plan, a five-year action plan for the school system.

With $1 million, the school system plans to add 10 teaching positions and maintain wireless technology infrastructure.

The new teaching positions include three elementary math resource teachers, three middle school gifted and talented teachers, and four special education resource teachers.

Carroll County Public Schools is about $10.8 million off its peak revenue, both state and county, from recent years, according to Chief Financial Officer Chris Hartlove.

"If inflationary costs are going up and revenues are going down, you have to cut costs and that's what we've been doing," Hartlove said.

According to Hartlove, the school system has cut about 199 positions and have frozen salaries in five of the last six years.

Guthrie did address the possibility of using the school system's fund balance on capital projects instead of employee wages.

"Right now, I am saying to Carroll County, the board, everybody that wants to listen, that I value our employees in providing them with some compensation increases more than I value those deferred maintenance projects," he said.

Carroll County owns the lowest starting salary for teachers in the state.

Board member Jennifer Seidel described the approved budget as reasonable and conservative with a "two percent, modest increase" in county funding.

"I am very comfortable with this request because I do think that it takes into account the needs of our students, while at the same time recognizing that we do still have some financial constraints that we are working within," she said.

The budget approved by the Board of Education Wednesday assumes a $2 million decrease in state funding, but Guthrie warned that the school system could see a $3.1 million decrease in state funding.

"Rather than try to make reductions now, I'm saying let's wait until the end of the legislative session and see how that plays out," Guthrie said.

For more information on the approved budget, visit http://www.carrollk12.org.