Board of Education pushes back on possible North Carroll move

Emily Chappell
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

Carroll County Public School Board of Education members pushed back on potential plans by the county commissioners to move the school system's central office to the former North Carroll High School building in Hampstead.

It's the second time this week the building's fate has been a topic of conversation. The Board of County Commissioners brought up the building during a fiscal year 2018 budget work session, after voting Tuesday to raze the former Charles Carroll Elementary School building and build a new facility. Both schools were shut down at the end of the 2015-16 school year, as was New Windsor Middle School.

Commissioners didn't vote on what to do with North Carroll, though the discussion indicated a vote was possible on its fate on Thursday.

Commissioners Doug Howard, R-District 5, and Richard Weaver, R-District 2, whose district includes the school building, presented a concept at the beginning of March that would move Carroll County Public Schools' Central Office, a portion of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, the Department of Recreation and Parks, and a child care business to the North Carroll High School building off Md. 482 in Hampstead.

School board members voiced concerns about idea Wednesday night, and board President Devon Rothschild went as far as saying CCPS is "prepared to fight on this issue."

Superintendent Stephen Guthrie added to the discussion over the building's future, and possible Central Office move Wednesday, telling the school board that he has "some concerns" over the plan. His main issue, Guthrie said, is the fact the building is not centrally located, something many of the other members echoed.

"We are [the] Central Office," Guthrie said. "I believe we should be located centrally."

"It's not an appropriate place for us to have our central operations," Rothschild said.

Board member Donna Sivigny said she was concerned there was no feedback requested by the agencies that could move. There needs to be a joint discussion, she said.

Sivigny also said she felt like pushing the CCPS Central Office to North Carroll is an attempt to solve one problem — empty buildings — by creating another one.

Board member Virginia Harrison said the current location works and moving to the northern portion of the county isn't a "good idea at all."

The commissioners are making a plan that doesn't meet any of the other agencies' needs, she added.

Howard, who sits on the school board as an ex-officio member with no voting power, said the commissioners are working to have a very difficult conversation, but it's not a new discussion. There have been talks with the other parties involved, he said.

Weaver, Guthrie, Sheriff Jim DeWees and State's Attorney Brian DeLeonardo did meet in January, though the superintendent, sheriff and state's attorney brought in an idea about moving the Sheriff's Office to a location on Md. 97.

"The fact is we've got extra buildings," Howard said to the school board Wednesday. "If you've got another suggestion other than just saying no, I'd love to hear it."

This should be an open dialogue, Howard added.

"Then invite us to the table," Rothschild said.

The school board agreed to send a letter to the commissioners voicing their concerns in preparation for Thursday's continued discussion and possible vote.

Budget breakthrough

The school board also discussed the FY18 budget and how the school system is closing the remaining funding gap internally.

When the proposed budget was approved, the gap was $3.9 million. Since then, Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, put forth a supplemental budget at the end of March that provided money for schools facing declining enrollment, and therefore declining financial support under the current school funding formula. Carroll schools got $1.6 million in supplemental funding.

Guthrie backed off of an original request for more funding from the county and instead closed the $2.3 million gap through health care cost reduction and 10 teacher positions reduced through attrition.

The school system reduced the majority of the gap by $1.9 million through Aetna prescription rebates. The 10 reduced positions will save CCPS $650,000. With these reductions, the updated proposed budget also includes adding $200,000 for raises for substitute teachers and hourly employees, and a memorandum of understanding with the county teachers union, the Carroll County Education Association.

emily.chappell@carrollcountytimes.com

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