In order to fully fund the school system’s budget request, Howard County would have to either raise taxes or eliminate another department’s budget entirely, County Executive Calvin Ball said in a Facebook post Monday morning.
“There have been a lot of questions about my proposed operating budget for the school system, and I hope the following answers some of them,” Ball wrote in the post.
Ball’s spending plan also includes $40.9 million for the school system’s general fund, which is funded through state and county dollars, according to Ball’s spokesman Scott Peterson.
However, Ball’s spending plan falls nearly $84 million short of the school board’s request of $689.3 million from the county.
The school board approved a $972.7 million budget in February, seeking $689.3 million from the county, $265.7 million from the state, $385,000 in federal funding and $17.3 million from “other sources.”
Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano had requested a nearly $1 billion budget at $998.4 million, 15.8% larger than this year’s spending plan.
“The Superintendent's requested increase of $122.8 million triples general fund revenue growth for the entire county, and would necessitate either a 23-cent property tax increase or the elimination of the entire Police Department budget to fund,” Ball wrote in his post.
The roughly $122.8 million figure comes from the difference between the school board’s fiscal 2020 request of $972.7 and Martirano’s request for fiscal 2019 of $850.7 million. If looking at both of Martirano’s requests of $998.4 million from this year and $850.7 million from last year, he had requested an increase of $147.7 million from the two years.
For the past decade, the annual average increase a superintendent has sought was $26.5 million, Peterson said.
Ball said his proposed budget avoids “extreme measures” such as furloughs and layoffs.
Years of underfunding the school system cannot be addressed “within a single year without making fiscally irresponsible decisions,” he added.
The school board and County Council are scheduled to have a work session on the operating budget Wednesday morning at the George Howard building in Ellicott City.