A full crowd of educators dressed in red were at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting to listen to the 2020 fiscal year budget work session and share public comment on the proposed $201.3 million budget as the last two meetings.
Carroll County Public Schools Superintendent Steve Lockard’s proposal is an $8.9 million increase — 4.65 percent — from the FY19 budget of $128.6 million.
The increase includes $8.9 million to negotiate raises and employee compensation, and $2.8 million in inflationary costs, but also $2.8 million in savings on new hires. In addition to raises, Lockard’s request includes 29 new teacher positions for Carroll County Public Schools: four special education resource teachers, 11 elementary school academic specialists, seven middle school academic specialists, three school psychiatrists, two intervention specialists, and two on-site technicians.
Board member Marsha Herbert asked, “Our first priority is taking care of what we have now, our educators and custodians. My problem is: We are still negotiating, so how do we work this and take care of all these people first?”
“The compensation of our employees is the highest priority in this budget,” Lockard said at the Tuesday, Jan. 23, work session. “I am again going to look forward as it relates to the changing needs of our students.
“We have cut positions in the last 10 years and have been creative in how we use staffing,” Lockard said. “Beyond compensation, I’ve heard this from teachers, community members, principals, some of the changing needs of our students as it relates to mental health, wellness and sports.
“I recognize not all 29 might be realistic,” he said. “However those are things we recognize as needs to our system so at least to have it out there. … The whole goal of the proposed budget is to keep our great school system great and the needs of our school system moving forward.”
Other potentially positive news is what looks like an increase in school funding from the governor’s proposed budget, CCPS Chief Financial Officer of Financial Services Christopher Hartlove said.
But the increase still needs to go through the legislative process.
“We did get some additional information on Jan. 18, just last week,” said Hartlove. “The Maryland State Department of Education released a preliminary draft calculation for major state aid based on the governor’s budget.
“There is some preliminary good news there. They have $131.2 million per these numbers which represents a $2.6 million or 2.1 percent increase over FY19,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic about this number, but we would not want to necessarily count these chickens before the eggs hatch.”
Board President Donna Sivigny said she recognized the fiscal responsibility of only increasing the budget 2.75 percent, but wanted to see the new positions align with a strategic business plan that would outline the return on the proposed expenditures.
“I’m struggling a little bit with the 29 positions,” she said, “because we are calling them true needs, but I’m used to seeing something akin to a business plan as: How do we demonstrate this ask to the commissioners, the true needs, and put together a business plan where we are seeing there are strategic plan initiatives?
“What does the strategic plan measure that we need to focus on and what’s going to be the return, the achievement return, on that investment?” Sivigny asked. “This is what we are going to hold ourselves accountable to. I think it would make a lot more sense to be able to make that ask if we have the justification for those.”
Lockard said that justification is available as there were originally about 80 new positions suggested, and that the information will be presented to the Board of Carroll County Commissioners at the joint BOE-BOCC meeting when it is set up.
Hartlove said in efforts to remain as transparent as possible, information on the FY20 budget — including a simplified breakdown for newcomers to the CCPS budget process — is all available on the CCPS website.
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The next budget work session will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 6. The BOE will adopt the operating budget with its request for county funding Feb. 13.