Howard County Times

Howard schools superintendent recommends staff reduction, class size increase to close $67.3M budget gap

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Howard County Public School System Superintendent Michael Martirano has recommended that the school board adopt a fiscal 2024 budget balancing scenario today that would cut 101.1 full-time equivalent staff positions, resulting in the possibility of increased class sizes across the system.

The school board is set to vote on the proposal at a 5:30 p.m. work session.


Martirano’s plan would cover a $67.3 million gap in the school budget since County Executive Calvin Ball said this week he would not add any more funds to his proposed $1.1 billion education operating budget.

The recommendation, termed “Scenario 4,” would cut approximately $41.7 million in requested expenditures and reduce the number of new staff positions from 327.55 to 138. The plan also cuts 101.1 existing staff positions.


The move would increase the “upper range” of allowable class sizes by one student at the elementary school level and 1.5 at the middle and high school levels. For the current school year, kindergarten classes are capped at 23 students and middle and high school classes have upper ranges of 33.

Class size requirements for grades 1-5 depend on whether a school is designated as Title I, where at least 40% of students participate in the Free and Reduced-Price Meals program. For grades 1-2, the upper class size range is 25 for non-Title I schools and 24 for Title I schools. For grades 3-5, the upper range is 31 for non-Title I schools and 30 for Title 1 schools.

School spokesperson Brian Bassett said that staffing changes will be made on a school-by-school basis, based on existing class size levels and needs. According to the district’s 2022-2023 class size report, current class size averages are 22.55 for elementary schools, 23.2 for middle schools and 24.5 for high schools.

“Considering our modest projected enrollment growth, we will work to make the impact of the class size increase as minimal as possible,” Martirano said in a Tuesday memo to the school board. “The reading, math, special education, and other staff positions that this budget adds will further help to mitigate the impact of a class size increase.”

Martirano said in the memo that the County Council had “not indicated any possibility of additional funding beyond the County Executive’s proposed funding level.”

In February, the school board requested a $110.5 million increase in county funds from the current budget, a level Ball called unattainable, given the county’s expected revenue growth. Ball’s own proposal still grew the school system’s budget by $47 million, the largest ever single-year increase in local funding.

“HCPSS leadership was informed, once again, Monday that we are proud of the current record-setting proposal and are confident that with more than $1 billion, the community’s educational priorities could be addressed,” Ball said in an email Tuesday. “We have been clear with the school system and Board of Education, beginning with my letter in response to the unattainable budget request … that we would invest in education along with all areas of quality of life, while being fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars.”


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The remaining $25 million gap would be covered through the use of three one-time school system funding sources: $17.5 million from the unassigned general fund balance, $6.7 from the technology services fund and $1.3 million from projected investment income.

Scenario 4 would maintain several of Martirano’s budget priorities, such as funding for negotiated staff salary increases, 42 positions needed to open Guilford Park High School in Jessup in August and three positions to help facilitate school start time changes, Martirano said.

Salary increases were driven in part by the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, 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.

While Howard is on pace to meet the salary targets, Martirano warned that the budget balancing scenario leaves the district unable to fulfill certain Blueprint mandates in fiscal 2024. Scenario 4 would delay the expansion of free full-day prekindergarten services for eligible 3- and 4-year-olds and cut funding for the county’s Workforce Development Board to implement career counseling services for all middle and high school students.

“The reliance on one-time sources is a reflection that recurring Blueprint costs, the largest being mandated compensation increases, are growing faster than state and county revenues can afford and will create challenges for FY 2025 and beyond,” Martirano said.

The school board is expected to vote on the balancing scenario Wednesday at a budget work session beginning at 5:30 p.m. The County Council is scheduled to adopt its fiscal 2024 operating budgets on May 24, followed by adoption by the board on May 25.


The public can attend Howard school board meetings in person at 10910 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City, or watch online at