County increases education funding in 2018 budget
Teachers would get STEP adjustments in proposed budget
The Charles County budget has not been passed by the Charles County Board of Commissioners, but a preliminary look at the budget shows the county would have a surplus of just $262,800.
The county’s proposed budget revenues stand at $389,852,100 with the proposed expenditures coming in at $389,589,300, according to David Eicholtz, the director of fiscal and administrative services for the county.
Even still, the county commissioners voted to expand the Charles County Board of Education’s budget by $1.6 million after
Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) made a recommendation to do so.
Using funding from the county’s cable franchise account, the commissioners would add an additional $1.3 million to the school board’s budget and use the remainder of their surplus to fund the addition.
“This addition is to ensure a step increase for teachers as well as support staff and fund new English learning and special education positions,” Robinson said.
The $1.6 million addition to the school board’s budget gives it a $5 million increase over last year’s amount and puts it at $189.5 million, which is about 48 percent of the county’s overall budget.
Despite the discussion over the rest of the budget, many educators and education advocates in the county were pleased to see that there would be a STEP increase for teachers and staff.
Linda McLaughlin, who is a teacher in Charles County, said her “super power” is encouraging and empowering her students. For the commissioners, she said, their power was voting to increase the board of education’s budget enough for an increase in pay for teachers.
“I’ve seen how hard it is to keep great educators in a district,” McLaughlin said. “Not only for a few teachers, but for all of our educators.”
She said teachers have been two pay increases behind their STEP schedule and that has made it more difficult to maintain a good quality of life while teaching.
Stephanie Walent, another educator in Charles County, said she was thankful for the county’s unanimous decision to support a STEP increase. “That was huge,” she said.
Teachers do not just care about money, she said, as many people believe. If that was the case, she said, teachers would not subject themselves to being in an atmosphere where they feel there is not anyone supporting them.
Both Commissioners Debra Davis (D) and Bobby Rucci (D) came up with their own recommendations for increasing the school board by $1.6 million, but were voted down because of the increase of funds to other departments in their recommendations creating a deficit for the county.
Along with the $1.6 million in funding, Davis and Rucci also pined for the commissioners to increase funding to the Southern Maryland Tri-County Council, fund $527,790 to the Charles County Sheriff’s Office for five additional officers and add another $200,000 in support for the College of Southern Mar yland’s new regional campus in Hughesville.
Those, along with other causes, pushed their budget request up to $3.04 million Charles County Commissioner President Peter Murphy (D) said those are all things the commissioners want to get done, but they currently do not have the money for it.
“I believe this whole entire board would want to support if we had the money for that,” Murphy said. “We’ll have an opportunity next week to come back and look at the ones that aren’t addressed.”
Eicholtz said he could not recommend the recommendations from Davis and Rucci, but did support Robinson’s because there was a funding source for it.
The only way the county could afford filling all of their requests, he said, was by either raising taxes on citizens, cutting from different departments and taking money from the county’s fund balance savings.
“Anytime you have a deficit you have those options,” Eicholtz said. “It would be very difficult for us to go back and cut.”
All of the items are also recurring costs, Eicholtz said, which could create a structural deficit for the boards that follow the current board of county commissioners.
Davis, however, said it is premature to shut down any of their recommendations. “This was a starting point,” she said.
For residents to maintain a good quality of life in Charles County, Davis said, the commissioners have to address the needs of public safety, education and health officials.
Next week, Murphy said, they will have the opportunity to. Rather than making a motion on any of his recommendations, Rucci said he is willing to wait and have more dialogue with other commissioners about those budgetary requests.
Robinson said he would be willing to work with Rucci and Davis on some of their suggested recommendations to see where the budget could potentially end up and if there are any funding sources available for them.