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Harford County school board to discuss budget request Tuesday

The Harford County Board of Education meeting Tuesday had been scheduled for this past Monday and then the next day, but were postponed both nights because schools were closed for snow.
The Harford County Board of Education meeting Tuesday had been scheduled for this past Monday and then the next day, but were postponed both nights because schools were closed for snow. (Matt Button / The Aegis file)

The agenda for Tuesday night’s Harford County Board of Education meeting contains two items: public comment and budget discussion, both of which are likely to draw extensive comment.

Harford Superintendent Sean Bulson has proposed the school system submit a $467.7 million operating budget to Harford County Executive Barry Glassman for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

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His budget proposal includes a $10 million increase over this year’s budget as well as elimination of 179 instructional and administrative positions across the school system.

The latter proposal has generated considerable dissent in the school community and had drawn dozens of people to public meetings, urging the school board to increase its budget request and urging the county executive and Harford County Council to give the school system more money to keep as many of the positions as possible.

The meeting Tuesday had been scheduled for this past Monday and then the next day, but were postponed both nights because schools were closed for snow. Monday is a holiday, so the meeting was rescheduled to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the A.A. Roberty Building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Bel Air.

“I would imagine school board members will talk about increasing the superintendent’s proposed budget,” school board president Joe Voskuhl said Thursday.

The public will get a chance to address board members before they begin their discussions, he said.

“There’s no sense doing public comment after,” Voskuhl said.

He anticipates many of the comments will be similar to what has already been said at a handful of public meetings in recent weeks, including Glassman’s hearing on what residents would like to see in the budget as well school board meetings and the council council.

“From the public, I think we’re going to hear we need to increase what we’re asking for. That’s been the comment so far,” Voskuhl said.

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He thinks many people don’t understand that the school board doesn’t control its revenue, that it’s dictated by the county government, he said.

“So we can only make a case for what we need,” Voskuhl said.

Many of the board members have said they would like to submit a higher request to the county by $2 million to $4 million, nowhere near the $17 to $20 million increases requested in recent years which have not been fully funded.

Every $1 million over the $10 million increase would allow the school system to keep about 15 teaching positions, school officials said.

If Glassman were to fully fund what Bulson has proposed, it would still be the largest budget increase in a school system budget in years.

If the board does not come to an agreement Tuesday on the budget to submit to the county executive, it is also scheduled to meet Feb. 25.

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The budget must be submitted to the county executive by March 1. Glassman will propose his budget for the next fiscal year, which includes the education budget, to the county council by the first week of April. The council holds hearings and work sessions throughout the spring and must approve a final budget by June 30, though it is typically approved much earlier.

Changes to the the school system’s budget may be necessary once its funding level from the county has been determined.

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