Education funding comments dominate at Carroll County budget public hearing Monday

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing on their proposed fiscal year 2020 budget Monday night, hearing numerous comments regarding education funding, before a crowd of several dozen in the theater at Carroll Community College.

After weeks of balancing needs, requests and spending cuts to make up for revenues that fell short of expectations, the commissioners voted to approve a proposed $417.5 million budget on April 23. Since then, County Budget Director Ted Zaleski has held five community forums at branches of the Carroll County Public Library to discuss the proposed budget with the community.


Monday’s hearing was one of the legally required steps toward officially adopting the budget for FY20 — which begins July 1 — with the other being that the commissioners pass that final budget before the end of May. The hearing is an opportunity for the public to provide input on what changes they would like to see to that budget before adoption.

Many of the comments made by speakers at the hearing had to do with education funding, either for the community college, or Carroll County Public Schools. The school system had requested an increase of $5 million for the FY20 budget, but the proposed budget includes an increase of $3.9 million in county funding, bringing the total county contribution for FY20 to just more than $196 million — total county funding for the school system in FY19 was just more than $192 million.

“Our educators deserve to be valued … and have earned a salary increase,” said Teresa McCulloh, president of the Carroll County Education Association. “Our students deserve the finest and we know the way to keep Carroll County best is to fully fund the budget request.”

Linda Glabach, a teacher at Century High School, told the commissioners — who were seated on stage — that when she first moved from Buffalo, New York, to begin a career at Carroll County Public Schools 15 years ago, she was shocked to find she was offered $25,000 less than her teacher’s salary in New York. She said she believed many teachers look elsewhere for work due to better wages.

“This is a great county, but you are not paying your staff to stay here,” Glabach said.

Each time a teacher, or McCulloh, or someone associated with public schools spoke, around a dozen people dressed in red stood up in the theater for the duration of their comments.

From the community college, professor David Fell spoke to a request for a 3 percent salary increase for college staff ahead of a re-accreditation process that will culminate in 2021.

“We will be calling upon people to work extra hard for this extremely important process,” he told the commissioners.

Carroll Community College professor Mira Foote spoke of research showing that investments in community college could increase the number of people who actually obtain a degree, that those with degrees earn more than those without, and that community college students are more likely to work or have other life stressors and often require more support than four-year college students.

“My students have many more cares than the average four-year college student,” she said. “If we want our Carroll County students to become self-supporting middle class Americans … please do more.”

There were non-education related comments and purely supportive comments as well.

Carroll County Public Library Executive Director Andrea Berstler thanked the commissioners for funding that she said has allowed the library system to become one of the best in the state.

“We are second highest in circulation per capita in the state,” she said.

Melvin E. Baile Jr. told the commissioners that he would like to see them form a group to study the Carroll County Agricultural Preservation program ahead of the FY21 budget season to make sure the program reaches it’s goal of 100,000 preserved acres.


John Corona, meanwhile, told the commissioners they should rethink the agriculture preservation program as a means to support active farmers rather than preserving agricultural land not currently being tilled.

“The objective should not be to preserve our heritage, the objective should be to support farmers who intend to earn a living,” he said.

The hearing ended just before 8 p.m. and concluded with Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, noting that the board would take the comments they had heard into work sessions before voting to adopt the final budget.

“We do have to adopt a budget by May 30,” he said. “So we will see where it goes.”