School board dis­cusses bud­get rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, re­dis­trict­ing

Both to be voted on at June 13 meet­ing

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

Charles County Pub­lic Schools is re­duc­ing fund­ing for col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing with em­ploy­ees and other cost-sav­ing mea­sures to make up a $12 mil­lion re­duc­tion in its Fis­cal Year 2018 bud­get re­quest.

The Board of Ed­u­ca­tion met with staff for a work ses­sion Mon­day evening to dis­cuss Charles County gov­ern­ment’s ap­proved bud­get as well as to an­swer ques­tions re­gard­ing school re­dis­trict­ing.

The school board’s re­quest of $364.2 mil­lion included a re­quest for $18.1 mil­lion in ad­di­tional county fund­ing. The county, how­ever, ap­proved the school

sys­tem for only $4.9 mil­lion in ad­di­tional fund­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est es­ti­mates from the state, the school sys­tem can ex­pect an ad­di­tional es­ti­mated $49,443 in state fund­ing, ac­cord­ing to Randy So­tomayor, as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of bud­get and fi­nance. The school sys­tem is also es­ti­mat­ing an ad­di­tional $113,900 from the state for non­pub­lic place­ments, spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents who have been placed in schools out­side the sys­tem. The school sys­tem and the state share the costs for such place­ments, So­tomayor said.

“We be­lieve the state es­ti­mates are pretty much ac­cu­rate, so this is a good es­ti­mate for state rev­enues,” So­tomayor said.

So­tomayor said the school sys­tem is re­duc­ing its health­care cost es­ti­mate by ap­prox­i­mately $1.5 mil­lion.

“We are see­ing a very good trend in health­care cost claims, pri­mar­ily due to our ex­pe­ri­ence, but also due to con­sumer ed­u­ca­tion. [Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­berly] Hill sent out a very nice email to all the em­ploy­ees, re­mind­ing them how to be pru­dent about health­care costs when they visit the doc­tor, but also our well­ness pro­gram is a very good, suc­cess­ful pro­gram, and we be­lieve that it’s help­ing the cost of health­care,” So­tomayor said.

The school sys­tem is also re­duc­ing the num­ber of re­quested ad­di­tional English Lan­guage Learner in­struc­tional po­si­tions from nine to four, So­tomayor said.

“Af­ter fur­ther re­view with the deputy su­per­in­ten­dent, we feel we can ac­com­mo­date three teach­ers and one in­struc­tional as­sis­tant,” So­tomayor said. “If there’s a need dur­ing the year, we feel we can ac­com­mo­date that through lapsed salar y sav­ings.”

The school sys­tem is also re­duc­ing the amount re­quested for col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing with unions. The school sys­tem has elim­i­nated its re­quest for $6.4 mil­lion to be used to meet skipped pay in­creases for teach­ers and staff in fis­cal years 2011 and 2015.

The bud­get does in­clude a 2 per­cent cost of liv­ing in­crease for em­ploy­ees.

Staff also an­swered ques­tions sub­mit­ted by the board re­gard­ing ele­men­tary school re­dis­trict­ing. Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­berly Hill has sub­mit­ted a plan for re­dis­trict­ing the county’s ele­men­tary schools begin­ning in the 2018-19 school year, due to the ex­pected open­ing of the new Billings­ley Ele­men­tary School.

A sub­mit­ted ques­tion asked what the ad­di­tional costs would be to “grand­fa­ther in” stu­dents en­ter­ing fourth or fifth grade, al­low­ing them to re­main in their for­mer zoned school.

Michael Heim, as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of sup­port­ing ser­vices, said the school sys­tem has looked at that op­tion, but it would cost ap­prox­i­mately $430,000 in in­creased trans­porta­tion costs.

“That rea­son is be­cause you’d be dou­ble-bus­ing. You’d still have to pick up those kids who are in pre-K through third grade, but you’d have to go back into those zones to pick up the fourth and fifth graders to their cur­rent school,” Heim said.

Board mem­ber Vic­to­ria Kelly said she knew she was open­ing a “can of worms,” but asked what the ad­di­tional costs might be if the school sys­tem granted an op­tion for stu­dents to re­main in their orig­i­nal schools if the par­ents pro­vided trans­porta­tion.

Heim said al­low­ing such an op­tion would cre­ate ad­di­tional un­cer­tainty for school ad­min­is­tra­tors in terms of staffing.

“Some may choose to go to the new re­ceiv­ing school, some may choose not to, so it makes it dif­fi­cult for school ad­min­is­tra­tion to work with the prin­ci­pals in de­ter­min­ing how many fifth grade teach­ers they’ll need, how many fourth grade teach­ers they’ll need,” Heim said.

Hill said al­low­ing stu­dents to re­main in their orig­i­nal school if par­ents pro­vide their own trans­porta­tion hits on ques­tions of eq­uity.

“If we pro­vide par­ents who have the means to do some­thing like that, the abil­ity to do it, then what are we say­ing to those who do not have the means?” Hill said.

The school board is ex­pected to vote to ap­prove the bud­get and re­dis­trict­ing plan at its June 13 meet­ing.

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