Craig ended up placing $221.3 million in the school system's budget, an increase of $1.5 million from the previous year, and the county council concurred.
In Craig's letter this week, fully funding the school system's request would have amounted to "roughly $560 more per pupil" and "would have required a significant increase in taxes."
In June, board members approved a number of drastic changes to close the nearly $20 million hole in their budget, including canceling a $7.7 million package of teacher wage increases, which were part of a contract between the school system and the teacher's union, cutting 115 positions system-wide, implementing a $50 "pay to play" per-sport fee to participate in interscholastic sports, a $25 per-activity fee to participate in extra curricular activities and consolidation of a number of school bus routes, plus creating "depot stops" for students involved in magnet programs who have previously been transported from their homes to their magnet schools. Teachers received a salary bump last year, their first since 2008.
"This is all a result of a history, a pervasive and serial history, of under funding your schools," Ryan Burbey, president of the Harford County Education Association, said during the July 29 board meeting.
School officials project the sports fee will raise $264,500 with a projected 5,290 students participating, and the activity fee will raise $285,500 with a projected 11,420 participating, Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications for the school system, wrote in an e-mail this week.
The bus changes, which include depot stops for magnet schools and later starting and ending times for four elementary schools, are expected to save $890,000.
Frisch said it was "a good question" where the money would come from if the school system makes a similar request next year, with the fees and bus route changes raising less than $2 million.
In addition to Craig, much blame has been cast at the members of the county council, which does not put the county budget together, but does have authority to add to the executive's school system budget allocation.
"The council has no funding appropriation authority," Councilman Richard Slutzky said Thursday. "That is the responsibility under state law of the county executive."
Slutzky, who serves as the council's liaison to the board of education and was a teacher and coach at Aberdeen High School for more than 30 years, said money would have to come from other county departments to fully fund the school system's request,
He said the county's own fund balance could not be tapped because funds are needed for countywide emergencies, and a balance of at least 5 to 6 percent has to be maintained to keep the county's borrowing costs from increasing.
"I feel certain that the school administration and the board of education is doing the very best they can to try to provide ongoing services and [meet] demands that they have to provide, in a 21st-century educational climate," he said.
Slutzky said Harford County is working to maintain a balanced budget in an economic climate that has been difficult for years, and the county had fully funded the school system's request when economic times were better.
"The bottom line is, my colleagues would love to be able to help every school employee, every deputy sheriff, every county employee, but we are in a very difficult economy," he said.
Frisch said even more changes could be coming to the bus system, and increased class sizes are also a potential.
"Personally that's not something that I think is in the best interest of the students," he said. "That's something that I would particularly like to avoid, but I don't know if there would be many other options for us, but we'll have to wait and see how that plays out."