Harford County Public Schools passed a $478.8 million budget for the next fiscal year that includes elimination of 108.3 positions — nearly 100 fewer than the 202.5 initially proposed to be cut.
The budget, approved 9-0 at Monday night’s board of education meeting, includes a $10.7 million increase from the county — the largest increase in recent years — and $5.5 million more than expected from the state, which allowed some of those proposed positions to be restored.
“This has been an experience, at times frustrating,” board member Tom Fitzpatrick said. “But in view of where we started, we’ve come to the best end that we could.”
Of the $478.8 million, $256.5 million comes from Harford County government.
In the next school year, 84.5 instructional positions, 26 administrative positions and 24 central office staff positions will be eliminated.
The school board also approved the $18.3 million food service budget and the $33.95 million restricted budget for FY2020, which starts July 1.
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The school system is waiting on final budget figures from the state to approved next year’s capital budget, which it expects to do at its June 17 meeting.
Approval of the budget for FY2020 was done Monday with far less struggle than approval of the FY2019 budget. During a marathon meeting that lasted until 1 a.m., board members used $11 million of the school system’s fund balance to fund the budget last year.
School board members praised Superintendent Sean Bulson, who signed his contract the same night last year’s budget was approved, for the transparency in this year’s process, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in years.
The board and the public were made aware of the dire budget situation early in the process and in recent months parents and teachers rallied to urge the school system, the Harford County Executive and the Harford County Council to give the school system the additional $5 million it needed to avoid eliminating positions.
Board vice president Laura Runyeon urged the public to continue those efforts, even with this year’s budget now approved.
“Don’t be discouraged by the fact that we did not get what we were hoping for. I look at this as an opportunity to have education a much, much greater portion of the community on how the budget works, what our challenges are, where the money needs to come from, what changes need to happen,” Runyeon said.
“Despite the fact that it seems like we lost a battle, we really won a tremendous amount and I would encourage you to stay engaged.”