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Howard County Times
Howard County

Community members advocate for funds for renovations, additional staff at HCPSS public budget hearing

More than a dozen community members advocated for a variety of funding priorities Thursday during a public hearing with the Howard County school board. Parents and educators shared concern on a number of items in the Howard County Public School System’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget, including special education, funding for interpreters and language liaisons, and deferred building maintenance and renovations.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball released a proposed $2 billion fiscal year 2023 operating budget for all of Howard County, which includes $1.025 billion for the public school system. That is $71.2 million less than the $1.097 billion requested by the school board.

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“To balance the budget, this $71.2 million gap will need to be closed by expenditure reductions, revenue increases, and/or a combination of both,” Superintendent Michael Martirano told the Howard County Council May 3.

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At the Thursday public hearing, Kelly McKim, a fifth-grade teacher at Clemens Crossing Elementary School in Columbia, and parent of a second grader in HCPSS, urged the board to prioritize school-based staffing, which she said was needed before the pandemic, and even more so now.

“We need additional special educators, paraeducators, interventionists,” she said. “As you move forward and examine the budget line by line, please prioritize school-based staffing to continue to help us support our students at the level they all deserve.”

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Liset Rajaratnam, a mother of three and a Latinx immigrant to Howard County, said she represented other Latinx parents in the community who are worried about their children’s education. She urged the board to include funding for language liaisons to provide interpretation services to bilingual parents and students.

“We don’t know how the education system works and the power of being involved in our kid’s school, but if we don’t feel represented there is no motivation to get involved,” she said. “[There is] fear and uncertainty of what is happening with their grades, with their achievement of not just graduating high school, but pursuing higher level education.”

Jonathan Edelson, who chairs the Oakland Mills Community Association board of directors, urged the board to continue to prioritize maintenance and renovations at Oakland Mills Middle School and Oakland Mills High School, which had been deferred.

“OMCA is thankful that these conditions should not persist much longer if these two schools stay in the capital plan as scheduled and receive much-needed funding,” he said. “Please stay the course and work with our county and state leadership to ensure the school system receives the funding it needs to execute the plan.”

The County Council will hold a public hearing on its capital and operating budgets at 9:30 a.m., May 12, at the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, and plans to adopt the final county budget on May 25.

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The school board will adopt its final budget on May 26. More information on the HCPSS fiscal 2023 budget can be found at https://www.hcpss.org/about-us/budgets/fy23/.

Fiscal year 2023 begins July 1.


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