Superintendent proposes $364M budget
Includes raises for staff, more money for special ed, ELL students
Charles County school officials are proposing a $364.1 million operating budget that includes ad- ditional funds for special education and English Language Learner (ELL) students as well as teach- er and staff salaries.
Charles County Public Schools Superintendent Kimberly Hill present- ed the budget to school board members and the public at the board’s Jan. 10 meeting.
The proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget is $19.9 million, or 5.8 percent, greater than the current year’s approved budget. The budget includes a $3.5 million increase for
rising health care costs.
Approximately $3.2 million of the increase is related to additional services for special education and ELL students, in- cluding additional speech thera- pists, special education instruc- tional assistants, additional ELL teachers and other positions.
During the Nov. 8 school board meeting, Deputy Superintendent Amy Hollstein in- formed the board that resourc- es were stretched to fulfill the needs of the county’s growing number of high-need special ed- ucation students and students with limited English skills.
“Because of changes in our student population, they’re requiring more services, and therefore, more costs,” Randy Sotomayor, assistant superin- tendent of fiscal services, said in an interview.
CCPS has the second highest enrollment growth for special education students in the state, increasing from 9.3 percent of the overall student population in 2012 to 11.7 percent this year, and the special education popu- lation is expected to increase by approximately 200 students in the next school year.
Sotomayor said additional funding provided by the state does not meet the needs of spe- cial education students.
“Under the special education formula, we get from the state approximately $8 million, plus we get some Medicaid reve- nues of $900,000,” Sotomayor said. “But if you look at our spe- cial education costs, the total costs are about $34 million.”
Costs to educate special edu- cation students with the highest needs average around $42,296 per student, according to infor- mation provided at the Novem- ber briefing.
CCPS had the highest enrollment growth in the state for Limited English Proficient (LEP) students this year.
Hill said in an interview that such expenses were previously absorbed by the General Fund, but the school system is now asking the county for additional money to help meet that need.
“Previously, we’ve been pull- ing those funds out of our oper- ating budget to fund the needs of educating students with dif- fering needs when they enter our schools, but we’re at the point now where we can’t do that anymore, and so we’re ask- ing the commissioners to con- sider a special line item in our budget that really talks about the requirements of educating kids with special needs,” Hill said.
The largest increase in the budget is for the establishment of a reserve of $12 million for collective bargaining with the Education Association of Charles County (EACC) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). EACC is the union for teachers, admin- istrators and certificated staff, while AFSCME is the union for classified staff.
“The reserve that we’ve requested in this year’s budget is very similar to what we’ve re- quested in the past, but we really don’t know how that is going to come out until we go through the negotiation process,” Hill said.
The fund would include mon- ey for three step/level increases for all employees. The school system is behind two step/level increases, due to budget short- falls in Fiscal Years 2011 and 2015, and $6.4 million is includ- ed in the reserve to meet those step/level increases.
Funding for the two step/level increases was included in last year’s budget as well, but the Charles County Board of Com- missioners declined to fund that portion of the budget.
The budget also includes an additional $430,000 to cover bus contractor compensation for the replacement of 11 buses which have reached their state-man- dated 15-year age limit, and the addition of two special educa- tion routes to accommodate the expected increase in special ed- ucation students.
The budget also includes increases in the expected costs of the teachers’ pension ($186,000), Maryland Associ- ation of Boards of Education (MABE) insurance premiums ($112,500) and nurses’ con- tracts ($103,700).
In addition, the budget in- cludes an additional $417,000 to meet anticipated student population growth and maintain a 25:1 student-teacher ratio.
The school system estimates approximately $167.6 million in state revenues, an increase of $1.6 million over last year, but Sotomayor said they have not yet received an official estimate from the state.
“However, we did receive some preliminary estimates, and those preliminary estimates were just based on county wealth and student enrollment,” Sotomayor said.
The school system is asking for the largest increase — $20.3 million — from county appropriations. Last year, the school system received $170.6 million from the county.
Hill said the study by the Business Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON) of Salisbur y University, released during the Board of Education’s Nov. 8 meeting, demonstrated the return on investment the school system provides for the county, which indicated that every dollar invested in public education returns $1.81 to the local community.
“What we’re trying to do with our community and with our commissioners, who are very supportive of what we do, is to help everyone understand that investment in public education pays off for our whole community. We don’t want to be seen as a drain on our county government revenues, we want to be seen as an investment in the future of our community,” Hill said.