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No surprises in budget to be submitted to Harford school board on Jan. 22, superintendent says

Contact Reporterecompton@baltsun.com

Harford County Public Schools Superintendent Sean Bulson said there “should not be any surprises” in two weeks when he submits his budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

“What we’ve discussed over the last few months, what you’ve been involved with the last few months, should all be familiar in what we’ve presented,” Bulson told members of the Harford County Board of Education at their meeting Monday night.

Bulson had intended to submit his budget at the board’s Jan. 14 meeting, but postponed it a week until Jan. 22 to give his budget office one more week to work out the details, he said.

In previous years, the superintendent’s budget has been given to the board in December with more than two months to review it before it goes to the county executive by March 1.

Bulson, however, has waited longer but is hoping the review process will be easier since the board has been involved virtually since the beginning.

He’s received mixed feedback on the significant cost-saving measures, to close a $35 million budget gap, he announced at the last school board meeting, on Dec. 17.

The school system’s operating budget this year is about $461 million, with expenses next year projected to be $485.3 million, a difference of $24 million, plus the $11 million from the fund balance used to balance this year’s budget.

Among those measures are eliminating 153 instructional and 26 administrative positions to save about $11 million and $3 million in administrative cuts.

“There have been a lot of question from the community, there have been a lot of questions from employees. I hope people understand where we’re going,” Bulson said. “It feels like people kind of get what we’re trying to do.”

Among the $3 million in administrative cuts are $1 million each from the elementary and secondary levels and the central office.

About $2 million has been identified to cut at the central office, Bulson said Monday, but he’s looking to redeploy some of that and is advertising two positions that would mostly support schools and principals. If those positions are filled internally, it could affect how other positions are shuffled.

“I don’t want there to be a sense of shell games,” Bulson said, that money is being taken from one area being put back somewhere else.

The school board will host a public meeting Feb. 4 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the A.A Roberty building in Bel Air to seek input from the public on the superintendent’s proposed budget.

“This is your opportunity to contribute your voice as we continue to develop the FY20 proposed budget,” according to an announcement of the meeting.

After a brief presentation by the school system’s budget team, board members will listen to comments from the public.

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