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Harford County school budget plan focuses on staff retention with significant increase for wages

The Harford County Board of Education began discussions of the budget proposal for fiscal 2023 on Monday night, with a proposed operating budget of $568.7 million, up $49.1 million or 9.5% from last year.

Mandatory budget increases of $46.7 million will add 105.2 full-time positions; these increases also include the $30.4 million wage package for school staff, up 280% from last year’s proposed $8 million.

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Schools Superintendent Sean Bulson said that “inflationary pressures,” such as the rising Consumer Price Index, weighed heavily into the budget increase.

“We all knew that keeping our staff in place during COVID was a challenge,” Bulson said. “One of the realizations that occurred in the middle of developing this budget was that we really needed to focus on the salary package for all of our employees.”

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The proposal adds an assistant principal position at every elementary school at a cost of $140,781 per hire. The position was eliminated at all but two elementary schools a few years ago, according to board member Patrice Ricciardi during the budget review.

In addition to mandatory increases, there will be 29 full-time positions added to the school system’s priority schools for a cost of almost $2.5 million. Schools are determined “priority” based on factors such as how many students are in the Free and Reduced Meals program, staff retention percentage and number of teachers with conditional certification.

Priority schools determined by the county in fiscal 2023 are: Aberdeen Middle School, Aberdeen High School, Church Creek Elementary School, Edgewood Middle School, Edgewood High School, Joppatowne High School, Magnolia Middle School and Roye Williams Elementary School.

Out of the operating budget, $324.2 million would be requested from the local government – $30.4 million more than last year – a 10.4 percent increase. State funding requested also increases by 7.8 percent to $235.2 million.

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At this point, the Board of Education is not anticipating receiving any funding from the federal government for COVID-19 relief.

The board will vote on the proposed budget Feb. 14. The budget is due to the county March 1.

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