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County Executive Ball addresses questions about his Howard schools budget

Jess Nocera
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

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.

In his inaugural budget cycle, Ball has proposed $605.2 million toward the school system’s operating budget for fiscal 2020. The proposal increases county funding by $16.2 million and “fully funds our commitments to our educators,” Ball wrote.

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.

Additional questions about the proposed budget can be emailed to Ball at cball@howardcountymd.gov.

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jnocera@baltsun.com

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