The start of every new school year comes with some aches and pains as the proverbial rust gets kicked off the wheels of the education system: school buildings come back on line after months of little or no use; teachers, parents and children get back into the swing of early mornings; and the school buses begin traveling our roads and communities.
This year though has been more trying than usual for some due to the Board of Education’s new bus contract as is evident by the number of calls our office has received from parents expressing their displeasure.
While we understand the Board of Edu-
To the editor:
cation’s desire to put the contract out for a competitive bid, which is a solid business practice for any service, we are concerned that the message on why a new contract was sought is being distorted. While this decision can potentially save the Board of Education operating dollars that can be used elsewhere in their system, it was not due to reduced funding from the Kent County Commissioners.
Maryland’s law regarding education funding dictates that a county must fund their board of education at the same perpupil funding as it did the previous year. This law is called Maintenance of Effort (MOE) and it dictates a large percentage of Kent County government’s yearly budget.
The MOE funding is by no means the maximum the Board of Education can get though as we are committed to the education of our students and therefore have provided an additional $1.2 million since Fiscal Year 2014. This level of funding has put Kent County’s per-pupil funding at the fourth highest level in the state behind only Montgomery, Howard and Worcester counties.
Additionally, the Kent County Board of Education has operated at a budget surplus for a number of years with a $2.9 million surplus in Fiscal Year 2016 and a $1.7 million surplus in Fiscal Year 2017. Obviously, the $200,000 projected savings on the new bus contract had nothing to do with a lack of funding from the county.
As your County Commissioners, we will continue to make the education of Kent County students a priority. This commitment is expressed through our yearly budget allocation to the Board of Education which, based on their commendable budget surplus, is evidently sufficient.
It is important to emphasize though that our role is limited to this allocation, $26.3 million in Fiscal Year 2017, and it is the Board of Education’s responsibility to utilize these funds, which are provided by you, our taxpaying citizens, in a prudent, responsible manner to make sure that all vital educational needs of our students and parents are met. The County Commissioners of Kent County William W. Pickrum, President Ronald H. Fithian, Member William A. Short, Member