School board discusses budget reconciliation, redistricting
Both to be voted on at June 13 meeting
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.