The Carroll Board of County Commissioners voted 4-1 Thursday to allocate an additional $2 million to Carroll County Public Schools for fiscal 2023, stating that the funds would be for one-time use to support staff salaries.
Commissioners Dennis Frazier, Ed Rothstein, Stephen Wantz and Richard Weaver, voted in favor; Commissioner Eric Bouchat dissented.
During discussion, Frazier called the leadership on the Board of Education “dismal.”
“They have yet to stay within their budget,” he said. “Every year it’s been that way. … Just because they have terrible leadership on the board, it penalizes the staff at CCPS.”
The Board of Education had requested $4 million in ongoing revenue above the $6.4 million originally allocated in the preliminary county budget for fiscal 2023. The school board and Superintendent Steve Lockard said without the additional $4 million from the county, the school system would be unable to provide appropriate employee compensation.
In the proposed fiscal 2023 Carroll County budget, commissioners included half of the school board’s request, setting aside $2 million above the original $6.4 million for the school system.
With that funding level, the schools would receive 43.2% of the county’s budget, down from an average of 47% the previous five fiscal years, according to school board members.
“Given the size of our system, the cost to provide employees a 5% raise to combat inflation, as the commissioners have done with county staff, costs $11.2 million,” the school board wrote in its proposal to commissioners. A step increment for all eligible employees would cost another $5.2 million.
The school board has used one-time federal funds to pay for $1.6 million in classroom positions and has used its fund balance to pay for $817,000 in priority school-support positions. Without ongoing revenue from the county budget, the school system would need to phase out those positions.
The school board also identified $3.1 million in priorities to address mental health and behavioral support for students. The board cannot pay for those priorities without additional county funds in fiscal 2023. Lockard said the school system had also recently learned that there would be a $2 million increase in local pension costs for employees.
Last week at a public hearing on the budget, about half of those who participated spoke in support of commissioners fully funding the school board’s request for $4 million.
During Thursday’s meeting, Frazier, a District 3 Republican, suggested giving Carroll County Public Schools an additional $2 million, fully funding their request.
“I’d like to go above that, actually,” he said. “I believe everyone else we funded this year got what they asked for, more or less. … I would think that if we could give CCPS an additional $5 million … that’d get them on the right path for salaries for their staff.”
Frazier said the commissioners could use part of the estimated $23.7 million in surplus from this year to fund the plan.
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Wantz, a Republican representing District 1, said he understood Frazier’s reasoning but still has a problem providing the schools with more money after commissioners set aside $8 million more than in fiscal 2022, which ends June 30.
Frazier suggested the board compromise and provide the BOE with $2 million in one-time funds rather than ongoing funds in order to increase staff compensation. He noted the schools should not use these funds for ongoing expenses.
“They need to manage [their money] differently,” Wantz said. “It seems like there’s little accountability.”
Commissioner President Rothstein made a motion to provide the one-time funding with the intent that it would be used to supplement salaries.
“I don’t support this,” said Bouchat, a District 4 Republican. “We talked about how giving one-time money to the BOE just results in them spending more and they want to keep it in their budget. ... I think this will wind up doing the same thing.”
Wantz said, “this is a good-faith gesture. I can probably go along with this knowing that we did meet them halfway.”
Final adoption of the fiscal 2023 county budget will take place May 24.