Howard Board of Education approves $734.9 million budget request

The Howard County Board of Education Thursday unanimously approved a $734.9 operating budget request for fiscal 2014 — up nearly $14 million from Superintendent Renee Foose’s initial proposal of $721.1 million.

“The board has to put forth a budget they believe is appropriate to fulfill its mission, and I think we’ve taken a pretty good step this year to do that,” said Board Chairman Frank Aquino.

Over the course of five work sessions in the past month, board members restored cuts to supplies, and added funds to various categories, including placeholders for negotiations with its various unions. The budget now also includes funds for seven registered nurses for county high schools.

“I remain highly committed to valuing our staff for the dedicated and hard-working professionals that they are,” Foose said Thursday afternoon. “As the negotiations and budget processes are now simultaneously under way, I intend to work collaboratively with the county executive to look for this additional money to support all staff.”

Board member Ellen Flynn Giles called the request a “responsible and responsive budget.”

It is Foose’s first operating budget at the helm of Howard County schools; her predecessor, Sydney Cousin, repeatedly submitted “maintenance-of-effort” budgets — the bare minimum required to keep the system functioning. Last year's approved budget totaled $703 million.

Board members acknowledged Thursday that the $734.0 million request was more than maintenance-of-effort, but it is necessary to move the system forward.

“Maintenance-of-effort, you equate that with standing still,” said board member Cindy Vaillancourt. “Do you want to stand still, or do you want to move forward?”

The request now goes to County Executive Ken Ulman, who presents his budget to the County Council April 29.

The board is asking the county to foot $570 million of the budget. The requests for state funds totals $216 million; federal funds, $379,000.

A public hearing on the education budget is scheduled for April 29, the same day as Ulman’s presentation, in the George Howard Building, 3420 Courthouse Drive in Ellicott City. The council’s public work session for the education budget is scheduled for May 14.

The council’s final vote on Ulman’s budget is May 23. A final board vote on the budget is scheduled for May 28.

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