Advertisement

Board of Commissioners approves extra public schools funding

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners plans to use $3 million in one-time funding and reallocate a portion of Carroll County Public Schools' capital budget to bridge some of the $13.8 million gap between the county's recommended budget and the Board of Education's county request for funding.

During the commissioners' budget session Thursday, they voted 4-1 to take 1.5 percent of Carroll's income taxes from CCPS's capital budget — 9.09 percent is normally allotted — and allocate it to the school system's operational costs in fiscal year 2016.

Advertisement

That equates to about $2.1 million in additional operational funding. The percentage of dedicated income tax allocated for the school system's operational budget will remain at 1.5 percent through fiscal 2018 before it decreases to 1 percent in 2019 and further to 0.5 percent in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

The commissioners also elected to give $3 million in one-time surplus funding in 2016 and $2 million in 2017 in an attempt to get closer to the school's $175.8 million county funding request. With these additional operational funding sources, the commissioners have gotten CCPS funding just past $167 million.

Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, said this decision is just a starting point and is in no way finalized.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, was the dissenting vote.

"We have robbed the school system to pay the school system," Rothschild said. "Using six years of capital funding to increase [operational] funding is the equivalent of taking money you were going to spend to replace your leaking roof and instead spending it on clothing, restaurants, and your kid's allowance. It's irresponsible."

By reallocating this capital funding, the commissioners will put CCPS's capital budget in the red for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, resulting in a deficit of about $2.9 million and making them unable to pay down their debt service during those years.

As a result of the one-time funding of the school system, as well as other surplus spending decided on by the commissioners during their budget session Tuesday, the county's $6.9 million surplus has been reduced to a little more than $270,000.

"We aren't trying to run [the county] for profit; we are trying to get the budget as close as we can," Howard said in defense of the surplus spending.

Ted Zaleski, director of the Department of Management and Budget, said he is concerned with how the county would deal with the school's capital budget needs without this additional income tax funding.

"If we make this move — putting aside maintenance, and the Career and Tech [Center] — we are making it less and less likely we could pull off a project like that [in the future] if we do this," Zaleski said.

Before the vote, Rothschild introduced a motion to allow the 1.5 percent reallocation to CCPS's operations budget for just fiscal years 2016 and 2017, with the expectation that the school system's redistricting efforts will have come to fruition by 2018.

The Board of Education has established a countywide redistricting committee and expects its results to be reported sometime this fall.

"Redistricting could possibly save CCPS several millions of dollars a year due to reduced salary and building maintenance costs," he said.

Rothschild's concern, he said, is that continuing to take from the school's capital budget will not only continue to impair maintenance efforts, but also could remove the Board of Education's incentive to move forward with redistricting.

Advertisement

"Diverting capital funding is extraordinary but acceptable to meet them halfway," Rothschild said.

Rothschild's motion failed to garner support.

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, said the Board of Education is planning on using some of its unassigned funds from fiscal year 2015 to entice teachers to retire early, hopefully reducing salary expenditures by as much as $3.3 million. The recently passed state budget, which was amended by the state Senate, includes additional funding for the Geographic Cost of Education Index, an optional piece of state public school funding, which was initially expected to restore another $1.2 million in CCPS funding.

However, Stephen Guthrie, superintendent of CCPS, said he has learned that Gov. Larry Hogan will most likely choose not to allocate these funds to the individual school systems.

"We are greatly disappointed to learn he might leave it on the table," Guthrie said.

This funding is critical in conjunction with what the county funds the school system, he said.

"That $1.2 million is a significant loss," Guthrie said. "We are hoping there will be some reconsideration of that; I'm not sure we can meet our collective bargaining obligations [with the teacher's union] unless that is restored."

He also said it is fortunate the commissioners are attempting to get closer to the school board's request, but it is still too early in the budget process to make any definitive actions as a result of their brainstorming.

"We have capital needs as well as operating needs," Guthrie said. "I want to give them a chance to look at the whole budget process. I won't make any decision one way or another until we see the end results of the budget."

410-857-3315

twitter.com/Wsentor

Nonprofit funding cuts might be dropped

The commissioners will consider whether to eliminate a proposed 7.3 percent funding decrease to many of the county-funded nonprofits by reallocating additional benefit program spending and will most likely make a decision next Tuesday.

Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, suggested the commissioners reallocate $150,000 of additional funding for the long-term liability of the county's Other Postemployment Benefits program, which offers medical assistance to retired local government employees, to accommodate budget increase requests from nine of the 11 nonprofits Carroll County funds.

The majority will be returned to flat funding from fiscal year 2015, while others — including the Youth Services Bureau, Rape Crisis Intervention, Human Services Program of Carroll County Inc. and Flying Colors of Success — will receive as much as a 5 percent increase from 2015.

As part of Howard's plan, between fiscal years 2017 and 2021, all of the nonprofits, with the exception of Access Carroll, will receive additional annual increases of 1 to 5 percent.

The $150,000 will cover all of the funding increases through 2017, totaling about $134,000.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, cautioned the other commissioners against spending all of the reallocated funds.

"As we free up money, we should always keep a piece of it on the side to accommodate other budget requests," Rothschild said.

Advertisement
Advertisement