xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Baltimore County school board passes $1.65 billion budget with cuts to administration

The Baltimore County school board passed a budget Tuesday night that calls for cuts to administration to fund a slight cost-of-living increase for employees.

The $1.65 billion budget is $390,000 more than the current year’s budget, an increase that came largely from state and federal fund increases. A small increase from the county was required by state law because enrollments had increased.

Advertisement

The unanimous vote came after board members said they were frustrated not to be able to give teachers more than a 1% increase in pay. Annual step increases have been frozen.

The budget that was passed was significantly diminished compared with the one approved by the school board last January that called for a $145 million increase over the current year.

Advertisement

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. had cut $43 million, including hundreds of new teaching positions that would help handle about 1,000 new students added this year to the rolls in the county. As a result, class sizes are likely to increase some this coming school year.

Only twice in recent memory has the school system not added teachers to handle enrollment growth, according to George Sarris, the executive director in the school system’s budget office. The most recent time was in 2012, during an economic downturn. The county executive also eliminated additional positions for specialized teachers for English learners and other students.

On top of those cuts, the Council Council made other reductions that kept the county’s contribution essentially flat, specifically eliminating pay increases.

But School Superintendent Darryl L. Williams decided to cut other costs to afford a small increase in pay.

Williams reduced administrative costs by about $4.5 million dollars to fund the 1% percent cost-of-living increase that was given to employees. The administrative cuts included $100,000 in salaries, freezing 10 positions, taking $700,000 from software development, and reducing cellphone stipends and office supplies.

The union supported the reduction in the pay increases, and the board approved the contracts with all its unions before the vote on the budget.

“This is not the agreement that any of us on the board had hoped for. In February we voted for a 2 percent COLA for all of our bargaining units. ... We were not able to follow through on our commitment to our staff,” board chair Kathleen Causey said.

The county schools will benefit from $23.7 million from the federal government to help with additional costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

About $1.1 million will be given to private schools, as federal guidance requires. About half the remainder will go to purchase Chromebooks for students who need them for distance learning. In addition, the county will buy personal protective gear, provide meals to students, and modify schools to allow for changes in instruction during the pandemic.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement