Carroll Board of Education approves 2014 budget

The Carroll County Board of Education approved a $329.9 million operating budget for fiscal year 2014 Wednesday by a 3-2 vote, but board members made it clear they believe more funding for Carroll County Public Schools is needed in future years.

"We cannot continue to go down this road of reduction and no improvements," board member James Doolan said.

Board members Barbara Shreeve and Jennifer Seidel voted against the budget proposal.

Shreeve, the board president, said after the vote that it was just "not enough money" for the school system.

"We asked for $166 million and I thought that was the minimum for what we needed as a school system," she said.

The budget approved Wednesday includes $163.5 million from the Board of County Commissioners, down from the $166.6 million originally requested by the Board of Education.

But the school system isn't just receiving less funding than expected from the commissioners.

Carroll County Public Schools is expecting to receive $2.1 million less from the state in fiscal year 2014 than it had last year.

According to Chief Financial Officer Christopher Hartlove, the decrease in funding from the county and state means the school system will not be able to hire 11 math resource teachers and four middle school gifted and talented teachers. It is also causing the school system to not allocate funding to maintain technology infrastructure.

Shreeve said not hiring the gifted and talented teachers is "doing a disservice" to the students of Carroll County.

These cuts are on top of the 24 positions the school system had already intended to cut in its previous budget proposal.

If this budget is approved by the Board of County Commissioners, Carroll County Public Schools will have cut 199.1 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions over the last six years, according to Hartlove. The commissioners will vote on the budget May 28.

The school system is planning to dip into its $12 million fund balance and use $4.9 million on 2.5 percent bonuses for all salaried employees and $500,000 for the operating budget.

Board member Gary Bauer said he is afraid that employees will begin leaving the school system because of the increased workload put upon them due to staffing cuts.

"I have a real concern with where public education in this county is heading," he said.

Board of County Commissioners President Doug Howard said the biggest challenge the county faces is attracting and retaining teachers and support staff.

"It has to be the highest priority," he said.

But Howard said attracting and retaining teachers is not a one-year challenge created by actions of county commissioners.

"It is a multi-year challenge that really centers around how effectively we build our business base," he said.

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