Su­per­in­ten­dent pro­poses $364M bud­get

In­cludes raises for staff, more money for spe­cial ed, ELL stu­dents

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­

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.

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