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Harford schools in line to get $356,000 more from state

Harford County educators say they are looking forward to getting an extra $356,000 for the public school system in state funding from Gov. Larry Hogan's supplemental budget that's in the works in Annapolis.

"We have been informed that we could receive $356,000 in supplemental funding from the Governor's office," Jillian V. Lader, manager of communications for Harford County Public Schools, said in an email Monday afternoon. "We look forward to receiving confirmation of the additional funds."

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That's all the school system had to say Monday about unexpected money that will go to what is expected to be about a $17 million gap between budgeted expenses and anticpated revenue for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Several members of the school board had questions of their own about the supplemental revenue.

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Board members Jansen Robinson and Robert Frisch said after Monday's meeting they didn't know any more than what they had read.

"We haven't received any other information," Frisch said.

Robinson wondered whether the money would be a one-time allocation, how the governor determined the amount set aside for HCPS, or if it would come with "strings attached," such as the audit Hogan requires for Baltimore City schools.

School board Vice President Joseph Voskuhl, who led the meeting in the absence of board President Nancy Reynolds, said it's not certain if the allocation will be approved.

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"I have no comment on it until a decision is made," Voskuhl said.

Ryan Burbey, the head of Harford County's teachers union, is appreciative of more money coming in from the state, but said much more is needed to make up for years when needed funding did not materialize as Harford County Public Schools saw major declines in its student population.

"If folks get a little bit of extra money, that's great," Burbey, president of the Harford County Education Association, said Monday.

In January, the school board rescinded a drama participation fee, restored funding for the high school swimming program, for pool maintenance and for overnight visits to the Harford Glen Environmental Education Center that Superintendent Barbara Canavan had cut from her budget proposal.

The school board then unanimously approved an operating budget calling for more than $17 million in increased spending.

The board amended the fiscal 2018 operating request, from the $455.2 million recommended by Canavan, to $456.06 million. The $50,000 in projected revenue from the $100 drama fee was removed, a $547,296 expenditure was added for the pools and the swim program and a $271,453 expenditure for Harford Glen.

The school board will have to amend its operating budget request with the funding provided by the state and county, amounts which will not be certain until April when the Maryland General Assembly session ends and Glassman forwards the total county budget to the Harford County Council.

Burbey said the proposed $356,000 in supplemental funding from Hogan is worth about 50 students in terms of per-pupil spending by the state.

"This will fill a little bit of the hole, but it's still there," Burbey said. "[I'm] happy to get more money, but it doesn't address the long-term decline in our funding because of declining enrollment."

There were 37,442 students enrolled in elementary, middle and high schools in HCPS as of Sept. 30, 2016, the date of the annual count of HCPS students. The system has the capacity for 44,242 students, a difference of 6,800, according to the enrollment report.



Harford County’s “Choose Civility” campaign kicked off with a breakfast event at the Water’s Edge Events Center in Belcamp on Wednesday.

Sandra Monaco, president of the Harford County Council of PTAs, said "any money, obviously, is helpful to the schools."

She also noted the $17 million gap between this year's budget and next year's budget request. Most of the increase would be dedicated to employee salary increases and covering increased employee health care costs, according to the budget proposal Superintendent Barbara Canavan's submitted to the school board.

The funding request increased after the board voted to rescind a $100 drama participation fee, allocate money to repair swimming pools and keep the interscholastic swim program and set aside money to help restore overnight visits for fifth graders at the Harford Glen Environmental Education Center.

Monaco said she thinks the additional state money should go toward closing the gap between budgets.

"I wish it were more," she said. "I wish it would help the board out more with trying to come up with their [funding] commitments."

Monaco expressed frustration that more than $23 million would go to help Baltimore City schools while surrounding districts would get so little in comparison, and the amounts shrink for systems farther from Central Maryland.

"It breaks my heart that we have so many school systems needing money," she said.

Multiple factors go into the state's funding formula for its 24 public school districts, including the student population and the average wealth of the community.

Burbey noted HCPS ranks 13th in the state for the amount of local funding, 15th for the level of state funding and "near the bottom" for total funding.

"That's a flaw in the system, and somehow that has to be addressed in the new funding formula," Burbey said, referring to the state's Kirwan Commission that is reviewing state and local funding methods for schools.

Burbey said he expects the school system to apply the new state money to the general operating budget, unless it comes with an assigned use.

The budget request has been submitted to state and Harford County funding authorities, which will allot money based on their revenues.

"It's one third of one thirteenth of the way there," Burbey said of the extra money from the state.

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