Howard County Times

$1.1 billion proposed budget for Howard’s public schools fully funds teacher salary increases

Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at The Baltimore Sun.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball’s proposed operating budget for fiscal 2024, unveiled Monday night, aims to fully fund salary increases for county educators and school personnel and give the school system a record amount of funding for next fiscal year — $1.1 billion.

The proposal marks the largest ever single-year increase in local funding, at $47 million, but it falls short of what the Howard school board requested by $65 million. Ball proposed $721.2 million in direct county funding for the school system; the school board asked for $786.1 million.


Citing the need to implement Blueprint for Maryland’s Future mandates, the board had asked for a $110.5 million jump in county funds, a number Balled called fiscally unattainable given the county’s expected revenue growth.

“The proposed operating budget that I submitted to the Board of Education and that was ultimately adopted by the Board and sent to the county executive is not an aspirational budget,” Superintendent Michael Martirano said at an April 12 County Council-school board meeting. “In fact, several million dollars’ worth of the needs identified by the school-based and central office staff was not necessarily included in that request.”


HCPSS spokesperson Brian Bassett said staff are reviewing Ball’s proposed budget and will provide a preliminary analysis to the school board this week. The superintendent and board are scheduled to discuss the budget with the County Council May 1.

“The budget is not final until the County Council has passed the final budget, and as they have the ability to add funding up to the Board’s requested amount, it is premature to comment on the implication of the funding level on the expenditures that are driving budget growth for [fiscal] 2024,” Bassett said in an email Monday.

While Blueprint-mandated investments in teacher salaries, expanded prekindergarten and new college and career readiness programs are embedded in state funding increases, County Council members questioned during the April 12 meeting how they would keep pace locally at the rates outlined by Darin Conforti, the school system’s executive director of budget.

“Where are we going to get all this money?” asked council member Deb Jung, a Democrat representing District 4. “It’s clear to me, especially this year working so closely with the Maryland Association of County Representatives, that this formula isn’t going to work for most jurisdictions, if maybe not all jurisdictions in the state of Maryland, unless the state kicks in more money.”

If a school district fails to comply with a given mandate, the Blueprint’s Accountability and Implementation Board has the power to withhold a portion of state funding, according to HCPSS Blueprint Coordinator Timothy Guy.

“We’re gonna have to make some tough decisions as joint bodies of how we advance [what] may not necessarily be in compliance with the AIB’s expectation or the legislation,” Martirano said. “What is that accountability piece going to look like if we don’t meet those markers?”


In addition to creating more than 330 new full-time equivalent staff positions — including about 90 instructional teachers — Ball’s proposal includes $46.4 million to fully fund new one-year contracts with the county’s teachers’ union and education support professionals unit ratified April 13 by the school board.

The heavy investment in salaries is driven by the Blueprint’s second pillar, which seeks to attract and retain high quality and diverse teachers by requiring districts to adopt a $60,000 base salary by July 1, 2026, and a 10% salary jump from 2019 by June 2024.

Effective July 1, the starting salary for 10-month Howard teachers will increase from $56,228 to $58,477, putting the county well on its way to meeting the Blueprint target. But school officials emphasized the district has to invest beyond the Blueprint’s mandate to remain competitive in hiring, given Howard’s higher cost of living.

“What does it cost to bring people into the county?” board Chair Antonia Watts said April 12. “$60,000 on the Eastern Shore is different from $60,000 in Howard County.”

Howard had 74 teacher vacancies as of April 13, according to school spokesperson Emily Bahhar, close to the same number as at the start of the school year. Of the openings, 34 are for non-special education teachers, 18 are for special education teachers and 22 are for related service providers, such as therapists and speech language pathologists.

Although Howard’s current minimum salary ranks second in the state, it’s unclear if it will maintain its position as other districts conclude their own union negotiations and the Blueprint continues to drive salaries upward.


“I keep my eye on that all day long because we have to be competitive,” Martirano said. “We’re rapidly moving toward that [Blueprint target] in an aggressive way, but I’m viewing that also as the floor, not the ceiling.”

Howard County Times: Top stories


Daily highlights from Howard County's number one source for local news.

In addition to the increased pay scales, Howard County Education Association President Colleen Morris says the new contracts help bolster staff mental health in the wake of the pandemic by creating a more flexible leave policy. Ten-month employees will receive seven personal days and six sick days, compared with the current breakdown of three personal and 10 sick.

“Salaries are just a part, although a big part, of attracting and maintaining staff,” Morris said. “Working conditions are just as important in a job that is often very stressful. We hope the new language around leave will allow employees to rejuvenate while also ensuring minimal disruptions to student learning.”

Along with salaries, Ball’s budget proposal aims to support teachers by earmarking $300,000 for a new program to assist educators with student loan repayment. It also dedicates $7.5 million in contributions to meet retiree health benefits of school employees.

Pending approval from the State Department of Education, the budget will put $887,000 in one-time county funding toward nonrecurring costs needed to open Guilford Park High School in Jessup next school year.


The County Council has scheduled work sessions on the county executive’s proposed capital and operating budgets throughout the remainder of April and May. A public hearing on the education operating budget will be held at 6 p.m., April 24, at the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City.

The meeting can also be accessed online at; sign up to give public comment at this link: