Carroll school board, county commissioners hash out funding questions

At a joint meeting, the Board of Education and the Board of County Commissioners went back and forth on funding as deadlines loom.

The budget portion of the agenda got the most attention as the state funding picture starts to come clearer.


The Board’s request to the county commissioners has changed since the superintendent’s first rough presentation in early January. At that time the school system asked the commissioners for an $8.9 million, or 4.65% percent, increase over the previous year’s funding.

Thursday, that request had been whittled down to $1 million. The BOE also floated a one-time request for half-a-million to fill a hole in maintenance funds, which have been slashed in previous years in order to balance the budget.

Foundational funding, commonly called Thornton funding, comes from the state and is generally based on population and formulas. Carroll received more than expected in initial proposals, getting 2.7 million more than the previous year.

This was not because of an increase in student population — that actually fell by just over 100 students in the last year— but a change in one metric used in the formula.

The BOE took that unexpected $2.7 million away from their request at the county level.

They also removed a request for funding for an additional 29 staff positions. The current request for a $1 million increase does not include any additional positions.

For future meetings, the commissioners asked the BOE to return with a plan for how they would make cuts without the $1 million increase.

Board Member Patricia Dorsey said this would be a change from how things were done in previous years when the county told the schools what funding they could provide and then it was up to the schools system to find places to cut after that.

Commissioner Ed Rothstein stressed how little the county revenues had grown year over year and how difficult the $1 million increase would be for the county budget.

Board President Donna Sivigny asked the commissioners to consider it in context of the past years when the Board had to make cuts. In three years, the school system closed three schools, cut more than 50 positions from all areas and cut the maintenance budget.

“We’ve taken out everything with the exception of basic inflation and the anticipated negotiated agreements,” she said.

Commissioner Steve Wantz said the commissioners had made very clear how many projects they had had to drop in order to make the county budget work.

“There’s a ton of things not going to happen because of where we are ...I don’t know where else we can get from, unless we raise taxes,” he said.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier said that that would be helpful even if the commissioners did fulfill the request to justify the value of it to citizens.


The school system was also able to see a clearer picture of the funding they will receive if Gov. Larry Hogan decides to release supplemental budget for FY20, allowing the counties to receive the first year of funds from the The Education Blueprint for Maryland's Future, commonly called the Kirwan Commission bill.

One section of funding is for an increase in teachers’ salaries. If the school board can show the state a 3% increase locally in teacher salaries, the state will add another 1.5% increase on top.

In Carroll, the school board would need about $4.5 million to provide a 3% increase in order to get about $2.25 million from the state.

Sivigny said that if the commissioners cannot fund the $1 million increase, the board may not be able to make the required salary increase and would be leaving the state money on the table. “That’s just bad business and bad for the teachers” she said.

Other Kirwan funding includes funding toward full-day pre-kindergarten, a position of a mental health coordinator, and increased funding for special education.

These funds are legislated for specific uses and cannot be moved elsewhere in the budget.

Despite the at-times-contentious discussion, members from both boards commented on how beneficial it was to be having those discussions.

Sivigny said she was glad that the meeting had squashed the “misconception that we were flush with cash with this Kieran money... these are tough discussions and everybody recognizes that,” she said.