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Harford executive signs budget; school board president disappointed no changes made to education funding

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman signed into law Wednesday the county’s $903.6 million budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, after the county council approved the budget Tuesday night.

The Harford County Council on Tuesday approved budget for fiscal year 2020 that did not include any additional money for education beyond what the county executive proposed.

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The budget drew criticism from the school board’s president.

“I am highly disappointed,” said Joe Voskuhl, whose term on the school board ends June 30.

The county budget includes $256.4 million for the public schools, a $10.7 million increase over this fiscal year. The school board and dozens of parents, teachers and others in the school system repeatedly asked the council to fund the full request from the board of education, which was $15 million more than it received from the county a year ago.

Harford schools will also receive $207.4 million from the state, more than $5 million above than it was expecting, and $8.7 million to fund Kirwan Commission objectives.

When the council members talked about the schools getting Kirwan funds, Voskuhl said that money is earmarked for specific things, including pre-kindergarten and mental health. It won’t help the school system keep the 84.5 teachers and 31.5 administrative positions and central office employees that need to be cut.

Through attrition, all but nine of the people in the positions being eliminated are without jobs in their current certification area, according to Jillian Lader, manager of communications for Harford County Public Schools.

“I believe there is money in the budget they could have found,” Voskuhl said, adding some suggestions were made.

“They, except for Mr. [Rob] Wagner and Mr. [Andre] Johnson, chose to ignore those suggestions,” Voskuhl said. “So they’re all happy with us being the lowest school system [in per pupil spending] in the state.”

The total package for fiscal year 2020, including a nearly $747.7 million operating budget and $155.9 million capital budget, is $1.7 million more than the $901.8 million county budget adopted for the current fiscal year and does not include a tax rate increase.

Glassman thanked County Council President Patrick Vincenti and council members Curtis Beulah, Joe Woods, Tony Giangiordano and Chad Shrodes for approving the FY 20 budget.

“[It] invests record-level funding in education and public safety, without raising tax rates. This budget also marks the fifth year in a row that funding has been provided to increase salaries for teachers, law enforcement and county employees, all of whom provide vital services for our citizens,” Glassman said. “I would especially like to thank my budget staff and everyone who supported our budget this year. Together, we continue to move Harford County forward.”

Glassman said that although student enrollment in Harford County Public Schools has remained relatively flat, the county budget provided the school system with a $10.7 million increase, “which together with state increases will far exceed the school board’s budget request for next year.”

The Harford County Board of Education next meets June 10, when it could adopt its final budget.

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