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School board to request $2.3 million more from county

On Aug. 8, the Board of Education unveiled the new logo for Carroll County Public Schools. The design was created by Beth Sheedy, a 2012 graduate of Francis Scott Key High School.
On Aug. 8, the Board of Education unveiled the new logo for Carroll County Public Schools. The design was created by Beth Sheedy, a 2012 graduate of Francis Scott Key High School. (Courtesy CCPS /)

The Carroll County Board of Education will be requesting an additional $2.3 million from the county to make up for cuts in Gov. Larry Hogan's proposed state budget.

In the governor's budget, the Carroll County Public School System has been hit with about $4.3 million worth of reductions. Steve Guthrie, superintendent for CCPS, said he had estimated in his proposed budget a decrease of $2 million, making the school budget $2.3 million out of balance.

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Guthrie originally requested $173.5 million from the county, which is $11.5 million more than the system received last year. He will now be requesting $175.8 million from the county.

A request increase was one of three options Guthrie outlined during a budget session Wednesday. The other options were to recognize reductions in the budget or wait until the General Assembly concluded its budget process in April before making a decision.

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Board member Virginia Harrison said the school budget has been cut back for so many years that the quality of education provided has "started to crack."

Jim Doolan, president of the Board of Education, said the proposed budget needed to be passed with the request increase from the county because it only funds negotiated agreements on employee salaries, covers inflationary impacts and does not include additional staff reductions. It also does not restore any previous cuts and it funds no building improvements, he said.

"This is not a pie-in-the-sky budget; it's just to keep us afloat," Doolan said.

The state reductions are partially a result of Hogan's decision to cut funding to the Geographic Cost of Education Index by half, resulting in just $1.2 million in funding rather than $2.4 million.

The index is one of the components in a complicated formula that determines how much money each county receives from the state for education, Guthrie said. The index measures the relative wealth of each county compared with other counties; the more wealthy a county, the less funding it receives.

Additional reductions come from a continued decrease in enrollment; the more students a jurisdiction has, the more funding it receives. Carroll County's enrollment has declined for nine straight years, resulting in the public school system serving 5,000 fewer students than in 2005. Enrollment is expected to continue declining for the upcoming fiscal year, Guthrie said.

The governor's budget also proposes no inflationary increases to the school system.

Prior to the budget session, the Board of Education held a hearing to gather input from the public concerning the school budget. During the hearing, several cost-saving possibilities were brought up, including doing away with the concurrent schooling program, increasing the cost of extracurricular activities, decreasing the amount of reimbursement for testing in Advanced Placement courses and reducing outdoor school to three days rather than a full week.

Guthrie said all of these options and more are on his radar. Each of these items wouldn't result in significant decreases by themselves, but he will be looking at everything in case the county commissioners choose to not offer the $175.8 million, he said.

"We are going to be pinching pennies," Guthrie said.

Another popular issue was teacher compensation. The budget includes bonuses and a 2.5 percent raise for teachers. This percentage was negotiated by the school board and the five bargaining units who represent the employees of CCPS, said Chris Hartlove, chief financial officer for CCPS.

The school board unanimously agreed that teacher compensation was their highest priority.

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"We can't go backward again," Doolan said. "Our surrounding counties are killing us in salary, retention, and recruitment. This is the time where we have to take a step forward."

Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or wiley.hayes@carrollcountytimes.com.

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