CCPS begins budget paring
Minimal county funding results in proposal reductions
— Ahead of an expected maintenance of effort budget allocation from the Cecil County Council, school officials on Monday night discussed how to cut roughly $1.6 million from their proposed fiscal year 2017 budget.
The majority of those cuts will come from reducing the number of proposed new positions, leasing technology and vehicles instead of purchasing them, and postponing the replacement of the antiquated Elkton High School video camera system, Tom Kappra, Cecil County Public Schools chief financial officer, told the school board.
The board will vote to approve the final version of its fiscal year 2017 budget next Monday following the county council’s budget vote this week.
“We’ll keep our fingers crossed for this time tomorrow,” School Board President Dawn Branch said of the council vote.
The approval of the final fiscal year 2017 budget next
week will represent the end of a long budget season for CCPS.
Following a number of budget presentations from school officials in January, the school board in February approved a budget that asked the county for a 3.1 percent, or roughly $2.49 million, increase in funds. But in April, County Executive Tari Moore gave the school system maintenance of effort funding, which translates to a 1.1 percent or roughly $860,000 increase.
Maintenance of effort refers to a state law that requires a county to fund its public schools at an amount no less than the per-pupil average provided the prior year, with adjustments for changes in enrollment.
To account for the smaller county increase in funding, school officials proposed paring down the number of new positions it hopes to add from 28.9 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions to 19.4 FTE positions. That means two proposed student services resource teachers will be cut as will a proposed social studies resource teacher and a proposed increase in classroom teachers, Kappra said.
The biggest cut to the proposed positions though is in special education, which will now see an increase of six classroom teachers instead of the proposed 13. Despite this decrease though, the system plans to increase funding for contracted oc- cupational and physical therapists by a total of about $500,000 due to increased need, Kappra said.
Board Vice President Wendy Wintersgill said that of all the changes to the proposed budget, however, the decrease in special education classroom teachers worries her the most.
“Those special education positions were added for good reason. That’s our hardest measure to move. These kids need a lot of additional support in order to reach their potential growth and when we keep playing with the positions in the special education arena, I’m really concerned about that,” she said. “We’re going to have to keep a real tight watch on what’s happening there. ”
posi- tions, will result in $486,489 in savings plus another $369,733 in health care savings, Kappra said. The school system will also save $152,732 by waiting to replace the Elkton High camera system, $102,555 by leasing four vehicles instead of purchasing them and $394,354 by leasing computers for three years instead of buying them, he added.
But the school system will see some additional federal money, Kappra said. The system’s increased number of students who qualify for free and reduced meals (FARM) — a marker for lower income families — means it will receive about $150,000 more in Title I federal funds for fiscal year 2017. Similarly, an increase in special education student enrollment resulted in a $86,223 increase in special education federal funds, Kappra said.
The increase in Title I funds is particularly important though because when Perryville Elementary School reopens in August, it will become the system’s eighth Title I school. In addition, its number of FARM students will move it ahead of Bay View Elementary School, Kappra said.
School officials have not yet finalized how those Title I funds will be used at Perryville but they will likely go toward additional support staff at the school, Kappra said.
Outside of the operating budget, Kappra said he hasn’t heard anything from the council about changes to the capital budget, so he assumes that request will be unchanged. The county funding for the capital budget includes funding to break ground on the new Gilpin Manor Elementary School and funding for the third year of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Progam (BTOP) project.
In addition, a federal grant will result in significant savings on the cost of the BTOP project and CCPS has proposed that these savings be used to fund the Perryville High School cooling tower replacement, the Cecil Manor Elementary School waterline installation and part of the Bohemia Manor Middle and High School waterline installation, Kappra said.
The county council is expected to vote on redirecting these funds in the coming weeks, Kappra said.