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Education

Baltimore County Schools superintendent proposes the FY 2024 operating budget

Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Darryl L. Williams presented the proposed operating budget for the fiscal year 2024, which comes to a subtotal of $2.13 billion.

Williams proposed the funds go toward salary packages, targeted student support and transportation, among other items. The proposal details the use of funds from Baltimore County, the State of Maryland and other federal sources. This is the last full fiscal year federal pandemic aid will be available for use. The school system also will see $32.3 million in funding from the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, legislation that will disperse billions to school systems over the next decade.

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“We have come a very long way as a school system since the COVID-19 pandemic began,” Williams said. “More work is needed.”

Baltimore County student enrollment numbers have declined 3.44% since 2019. The systemwide student count totaled to 111,083 in September 2022.

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Though the student population hasn’t grown, student needs have, Williams said. For example, he cited a more than 200% growth in the county’s population of English learners. There’s also about 80% more students eligible for free or reduced lunch.

Projected enrollment shows steady growth in the upcoming years, Williams said.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., a former educator, said that although his administration aims to prioritize education, Williams’ budget proposal requires change.

“Given recent enrollment declines, the budget request by BCPS is unrealistic and far exceeds increases offered to the system early in the budget process,” Olszewski said in a statement. “This budget does not reflect budget constraints, including adjusted state funding formulas and local spending affordability limits. We will carefully review this request and work with the County Council to pass a responsible, sustainable budget that funds a first-class education within our budgetary reality.”

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The school system’s 2024 budget proposal aims to cover the cost of salary increases negotiated in the 2023 fiscal year in union contracts for teachers and other system employees. Those costs caused strife in the fall over how they would be funded long term.

Williams said the school system had identified $24 million in budget reductions, exceeding its commitment to the county to cut the budget by $16 million

As part of targeted student support, Williams said the proposed budget also would put $2 million toward adding English learner programs in all secondary schools and $1.1 million toward non-public special education placements.

About $600,000 would go toward new schools, such as planning for a middle school in the county’s northeast.

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Transportation would see a $3.45 million increase, and $3 million would go toward facilities.

The proposal also includes one-time requests that amount to $15.8 million, including a $10.4 million boost for the English language arts literacy curriculum.

A public hearing on the 2024 operating budget will take place Jan. 17. The board will vote Feb. 28 on whether to adopt the budget.


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