Glassman's budget is practical, with a not-so-subtle message to HCPS [Editorial]

There were few surprises, if any, and certainly none of any consequence in Harford County Executive Barry Glassman's proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year beginning July 1.

He is holding the line on taxes and doing his best to do the same with spending. That, in a nutshell, is the Glassman budget proposal.

The next budget calls for $18.53 million more to be spent on operations than in the current budget. The current general fund is $524.57 million and the proposal is to spend $543.1 million, an increase of about 3.53 percent.

There were some winners – most notably Harford Community College, county employees and Harford County Public Schools teachers.

Glassman plans to fund a 4 percent merit-based pay increase for eligible county employees and the same percentage for civilian employees of allied agencies such as the Harford County Sheriff's Office, the State's Attorney, Harford County Public Library, the Circuit Court system and the paid employees of the Harford County Volunteer Fire & EMS Foundation.

Glassman said he has set aside $5 million in additional funding to go strictly to pay increases for classroom instruction, i.e. teachers and others who work directly with students as aides and such. He said if the school system wants to give raises to its administrative staff, it's up to them to find the money to pay for it.

"The board of ed does have to find money within their own budget to fund their administrative [employee salaries]," Glassman said.

He said the county government has been "rightsizing" its staff, eliminating 122 positions since he took office in December 2014. The school system needs to do the same thing, he added, to deal with its ever-rising costs and its flat, if not decreasing, enrollment.

Harford Community College was also a budget winner, as Glassman proposed funding its entire request for an additional $850,000 over what it received this year.

Harford County Public Schools, as expected, did not get its request for additional money fully funded.

Let's make this as clear as possible: Harford County Public Schools requested an increase in funding from the county of $18.1 million from its current $233.5 million to $251.6 million Glassman's budget proposal calls for increasing school funding by $5.2 million next year. That's $13.1 million less than school officials sought. It is, however, $5 million MORE than they received in the current fiscal year.

That is a budget INCREASE, not a budget CUT, as the school system leaders too often claim at times like this.

Glassman is trying, not so subtly, to nudge the county school system toward revamping how it does business. He is neither the first county executive to try to get the school system to change, nor do we believe, unfortunately, that he will be the one to succeed.

It's clear to many people that Harford County Public Schools need to overhaul the system that educates our children. School system leadership, however, doesn't see it that way and until it admits it has problems there's little any of us can do to effect necessary changes.

At least at budget time, if no other, the county executive can firmly and publicly pressure the school system to take a hard look at how it operates.

Perhaps, one day at budget time, the school system's funding request won't, in comparison to other county agencies, stick out like a sore thumb.

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