The passing of a second supplemental budget from Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday reduces the funding gap in Carroll County Public Schools' preliminary operating budget by more than 40 percent.
The Republican governor's office sent out a news release Sunday evening, detailing the supplemental budget, which includes an additional $28.2 million in funding for 11 K-12 public school systems in the state. The highest amount goes to Baltimore City — at $23.7 million — followed by the $1.6 million Carroll schools will receive. The supplemental budget was introduced Monday, and lawmakers in the General Assembly passed the funding Monday evening.
The money will lower Carroll school system's funding gap to about $2.3 million. When approved in February, Carroll County Public Schools' fiscal year 2018 Preliminary Operating Budget had a $3.9 million gap.
"We are very appreciative of the efforts from both the governor and state delegates," CCPS Superintendent Stephen Guthrie said. "This [will] go a long way to close our budget gap."
Guthrie said the first priority is funding the negotiated contracts for teacher salary.
"Any additional revenue that we get would go to help offset those expenses," he added.
Other areas of importance include funding for special education and wiping away debt that's been created there, and also trying to repurpose 15 positions as eight behavioral support specialists, four special education resource teachers and three math resource teachers, he said. Hopefully, Guthrie said, CCPS will be able to fund the first two priorities, and part of the third one with the $1.6 million.
Guthrie said CCPS is working internally to identify any reductions they can make to help close the gap. This money makes that gap more manageable.
Guthrie called the $1.6 million "the missing ingredient to eliminate the budget gap."
Hogan's supplemental budget
This supplemental budget is the first step in trying to help school systems with declining enrollment and funding issues, such as Carroll, while the current funding formula is reworked, Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5, said.
Ready said they're happy to see the governor trying to help smooth out funding gaps in areas where enrollment is dropping.
"We're thankful that he's really looking out for different jurisdictions in the state that have these issues," he said.
The governor's supplemental budget will help schools next year and legislation being discussed during the General Assembly session could help hold schools over for another two years or so until a new formula is put into place, he said.
Ready cross-filled the bill — House Bill 684, which was brought forth by Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5 — in the Senate.
Krebs, too, said she was "very pleased" Hogan submitted a supplemental budget. Her bill has passed the House, but it wouldn't affect school budgets for FY18, which is why the governor put in a supplemental budget, she said.
The supplemental budget also included money for community colleges. However, when the conference committee met Monday morning, that portion was removed, Krebs said.
Continuing funding problems
Carroll County Public Schools' funding gap comes from a decrease in state funding, in addition to what the county government has planned, compared to what the school system is asking for.
Hogan's proposed budget showed a decrease of $1,045,006 in funding for Carroll County schools as enrollment in the school system continues to fall.
The revenue from the county in the FY17 budget came in at $181,852,000, and the county is proposing to include $186,864,400 for CCPS in FY18, an increase of more than $5 million, or 2.67 percent. But the school system's FY18 preliminary operating budget requests more than $190.8 million in county revenue, which comes to an increase of nearly $8.96 million over FY17.
Guthrie said while the current operating budget requests more funding from the commissioners for FY18, the real focus needs to be FY19.
"That's a bigger issue," he added.
Extra state funding — providing Krebs' bill goes through and provides money in FY 2019 and FY 2020 — will help CCPS get through until the new funding formula can be put into law, which Guthrie said he thinks could be for FY21.
Guthrie sits on the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education — informally known as the Kirwan Commission — which was created to "review and assess current education financing formulas and accountability measures, and how each local school system is spending its funds, including the increased state funds provided through the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act," according to the state website. The commission's report is expected to come out in December of this year, in time for the 2018 legislative session looking at FY19, Guthrie said.
It's possible it could take two legislative sessions, he said, which would mean if all goes well, the new formula will be in place for the 2021 fiscal year.
Total public school enrollment in Carroll fell by more than 12 percent from 2008 to 2015, from 28,707 students to 25,178 according to the Maryland Department of Planning.
Ready said those who created the funding formula didn't take into account that some school systems would experience perpetually declining enrollment. The formula hasn't been changed in about 15 years, he added.
"[The supplemental budget and Krebs' bill is] basically trying to plug the gap until we get to a new formula," he said.
In addition to the $23.7 million earmarked for Baltimore and the $1.6 million for Carroll, Allegany County would get $793,000, Calvert $240,000, Cecil $190,000, Garrett $456,000, Harford $356,000, Kent $215,000, Queen Anne's $22,000, Somerset $455,000 and Talbot $133,000.