CCPS be­gins bud­get prep

De­ferred main­te­nance, new pro­grams tar­geted

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JES­SICA IANNETTA

jian­netta@ce­cil­whig.com

— As Ce­cil County Pub­lic Schools kicked off the fis­cal year 2018 bud­get process Mon­day night, many of the fi­nan­cial needs pre­sented were fa­mil­iar ones: tack­ling de­ferred main­te­nance, in­creas­ing staff and adding new pro­grams.

But this year, CCPS will ad­vo­cate for those needs in an in­creas­ingly un­fa­mil­iar cli­mate as it seeks to nav­i­gate po­ten­tial fund­ing changes at the state level, a change in lead­er­ship at the county level and a drop in en­roll­ment across the sys­tem.

Dur­ing the last Board of Ed­u­ca­tion meet­ing of the year on Mon­day, school ad­min­is­tra­tors pre­sented their ini­tial thoughts on the next bud­get to the board while ac­knowl­edg­ing that the bud­get process has barely be­gun. The items pre­sented merely rep­re­sented a wish­list of sorts from school of­fi­cials and those re­quests will be nar­rowed down with help from the school board by the time the su­per­in­ten­dent’s bud­get is pre­sented in Fe­bru­ary be­fore go­ing through the ap­proval process at the county level.

Two of the county’s newly

ELK­TON

elected of­fi­cials, County Ex­ec­u­tive Alan McCarthy and Coun­cil­man Bob Mef­fley, at­tended the meet­ing and as he started the bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion, CCPS Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer Tom Kap­pra ex­pressed hope that school and county of­fi­cials will be able to come to­gether and find some longterm so­lu­tions to the school sys­tem’s fi­nan­cial needs.

“We have a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge and we know it’s not go­ing to get fixed overnight,” he said. “It’s taken sev­eral years for us to get to this point. It’s go­ing to take sev­eral years to re­verse it­self.”

One part of the bud­get where CCPS feels it’s been lag­ging be­hind is school con­struc­tion projects, with the sys­tem’s de­ferred main­te­nance now near $50 mil­lion. These projects are bro­ken down into small cap­i­tal projects, which in­cludes projects

that are too costly to be in­cluded in the op­er­at­ing bud­get but are gen­er­ally not el­i­gi­ble for fund­ing by the state, and large cap­i­tal projects, which re­ceive state and lo­cal fund­ing.

At the top of the large cap­i­tal projects list is fund­ing to fin­ish con­struc­tion on the new Gilpin Manor El­e­men­tary School, which is due to be com­pleted by fall 2018. Also on the list are sev­eral roof and boiler re­place­ment projects as well as lo­cal plan­ning funds for a new Ch­e­sa­peake City El­e­men­tary School.

Un­der small cap­i­tal projects, the sys­tem’s en­ergy per­for­mance con­tract, which goes through 2021, is at the top of the list of 18 projects. Fol­low­ing that are sev­eral de­ferred main­te­nance projects as well as a field house for Per­ryville High School, the only high school that doesn’t have one and which has been a per­pet­ual re­quest from the sys­tem for the past sev­eral years.

Fur­ther down the list are

projects to make the en­trances at Elk Neck El­e­men­tary School, Elk­ton Mid­dle School and Per­ryville and Ris­ing Sun high schools more se­cure, though of­fi­cials em­pha­sized that these build­ings are cur­rently safe.

“In the world we live in right now, we have to keep our stu­dents safe. Be­cause giv­ing them the best ed­u­ca­tion isn’t enough if we can’t keep them safe,” school board Pres­i­dent Dawn Branch said.

Out­side of con­struc­tion needs, other big po­ten­tial asks in­clude an ini­tial list of 58 ad­di­tional full-time equiv­a­lent po­si­tions and a nearly $1 mil­lion in­vest­ment in a medium/heavy truck tech­ni­cian pro­gram at the Ce­cil County School of Tech­nol­ogy.

“That’s where the jobs are to­day,” said board Vice Pres­i­dent Wendy Win­ter­s­gill about the CCST pro­gram. “When we have kids who do not grad­u­ate, it’s of­ten be­cause we didn’t have the pro­gram that would in­ter­est them or that they needed. And one

kid not find­ing their way is one too many.”

As of­fi­cials look for ways to fund these re­quests, one yearly strug­gle is the sys­tem’s fluc­tu­at­ing en­roll­ment, since the num­ber of stu­dents at CCPS af­fects its fund­ing at the state level.

Last year the school sys­tem saw an in­crease of about 159 stu­dents funded stu­dents while this year CCPS is fac­ing a drop of about 119 funded stu­dents. Perry Wil­lis, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for ad­min­is­tra­tion ser­vices, has been do­ing en­roll­ment pro­jec­tions for 12 years and said he’s been un­able to find any con­crete ex­pla­na­tion for the con­stant changes.

The sys­tem’s fund­ing per stu­dent is $13,383 as of fis­cal year 2016, the most re­cent data avail­able, which puts it 19th of 24 sys­tems in the state. Other school sys­tems of sim­i­lar size though, in­clud­ing Wi­comico and Calvert, are ranked more in the 13th to 15th range, Kap­pra said.

The level of state fund­ing

each sys­tem re­ceives de­pends on a county’s wealth as well as stu­dent de­mo­graph­ics, and in Ce­cil County, $5,281 comes from the county and $7,505 comes from the state, with the rest com­ing from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. The state av­er­age for fund­ing per stu­dent is $14,917.

But changes could be com­ing at the state level in the com­ing years as sev­eral stud­ies are un­der­way that could af­fect fund­ing. The Kir­wan Com­mis­sion, a state com­mis­sion that was cre­ated to study how much state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments should spend on pub­lic school sys­tems, re­cently re­leased its re­port, which

found that Mary­land should spend $2.6 bil­lion more on schools and that state fund­ing for­mu­las should be re­vamped.

At the same time, the 21st Cen­tury School Fa­cil­i­ties Com­mis­sion is cur­rently study­ing the state’s school con­struc­tion pro­gram, ex­am­in­ing how to con­trol costs and still build qual­ity schools. The re­port from that com­mis­sion is due in the com­ing months.

The Gen­eral As­sem­bly is ex­pected to look at the rec­om­men­da­tions from both the Kir­wan Com­mis­sion and the fa­cil­i­ties com­mis­sion when it re­con­venes in Jan­uary.

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