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Carroll County school board urges commissioners to fulfill budget request

Board of Education members called on the county commissioners to reconsider their stance on how much funding they will give to the school system next fiscal year.

The current recommended operating budget plan for the county calls for the school system to receive $204.6 million, sticking with an agreement to increase funding by 3.13%, which works out to $6.2 million. The Board of Education is proposing a budget in which the county funds an increase of $11.4 million or 5.7%, to be at the level in fiscal 2022 that was agreed upon in 2020.

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A prepandemic plan created by both boards called for funding for CCPS to increase by 3.13% every year, which includes a $203.4 million request for FY21 and $209.8 million for FY22. However, after the pandemic hit, the commissioners allocated only $198.4 million for FY21.

Board member Donna Sivigny said during a February meeting the county did better than expected in terms of revenue for this fiscal year and since the school system is dealing with academic recovery, which is expected to cost at least $6 million, she suggested continuing to ask for the planned amount from the five-year funding plan.

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Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said during a Tuesday proposed budget work session that the Board of Commissioner has other agencies they must also look out for. Like the 911 emergency center that is in need of more staff and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, which is requesting higher salaries to be more in line with surrounding counties.

“They can throw the spears at me,” Wantz said during the work session. “We’ve put an emphasis on making sure people are taken care of.”

He questioned whether the extra money for CCPS would go toward salaries. Ted Zaleski, the county’s budget director said later that about 80% of the school system’s budget goes to employee compensation.

Wantz said the $6.2 million more they are proposing to give schools is still above maintenance of effort, the legal amount they are required to give them. He added that the school system received “a ton of relief funding” and saved on costs like transportation during the pandemic.

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“When is enough, enough?” he asked.

“We want more. We need more. Well, OK, so does everybody else,” Wantz said.

While Board of Education members gave their update reports during Wednesday’s meeting, Sivingy used her time to defend the system’s “reasonable” budget request.

She first commended the teachers who showed up when the board voted to return students to the classroom and the need to give them pay raises to show them their appreciation. Sivigny also noted how they have heard parents say they moved to the county for the school system.

“I would urge the commissioners to continue to make education funding a priority in 2021,” she said. She added later “the school system isn’t a long-term cost burden on the county, we’re the growth engine that drives topline revenue increases.”

Sivigny asked the commissioners to do right by CCPS educators and fulfil the system’s full budget request.

Board President Marsha Herbert agreed and asked for commissioners to resume their quarterly meetings.

“Please don’t forget that Carroll County Public Schools system is their best advertisement in Carroll County,” she said.

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, said he hears what board members are saying and they are right to make their request. But explained the county is in a situation where fire, police and education agencies all need money. And the county will be in a deficit for years to come.

“We’re going to have to reinstate a tax rate that will support the county,” the ex-officio member said.

He said later they project that the county will have a $16 million deficit in 2027.

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