School board passes $91.6 mil­lion bud­get

Record Observer - - Front Page - By HANNAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­times.com

CEN­TRE­VILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion ap­proved the fis­cal 2018 bud­get for pub­lic schools at the June 7 meet­ing. With Pres­i­dent Bishop Ar­lene Tay­lor ab­sent, the vote was three to one in fa­vor of the bud­get. At $91,631,258, this was the third low­est orig­i­nal bud­get re­quest in the past 15 years pre­sented to the Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sion­ers, ac­cord­ing to the re­port given by In­terim Su­per­in­ten­dent Gregory Pilewski.

All coun­ties in the Mary­land are re­quired to pro­vide as much fund­ing as they did the year prior on a per pupil ba­sis, known as main­te­nance of ef­fort. The county com­mis­sion­ers ap­proved a bud­get for the school sys­tem of $88,305,695, which in­cluded a main­te­nance of ef­fort at $1,307,968, but no ad­di­tional fund­ing.

This was the first year since 2012, the county did not award to QACPS any fund­ing over main­te­nance of ef­fort.

The county is also re­quired to meet the aver­age state ed­u­ca­tion ef­fort, or it is re­quired to pay ad­di­tional MOE in the fol­low­ing year. In fis­cal year 2017, Queen Anne’s County along with 11 oth­ers failed to meet the ed­u­ca­tion ef­fort cri­te­ria, re­sult­ing in a higher main­te­nance of ef­fort cal­cu­la­tion for fis­cal year 2018.

The county’s ed­u­ca­tion ef­fort had to be equal to or greater than the five-year mov­ing aver­age for Statewide Ed­u­ca­tion Ef­fort. The ed­u­ca­tion ef­fort is cal­cu­lated by di­vid­ing the county ap­pro­pri­a­tion to the school board by the county’s wealth. If this amount is less than the five-year mov­ing aver­age, an ad­di­tional amount of main­te­nance of ef­fort is im­posed at the lesser of ei­ther the county’s in­crease

in lo­cal wealth per pupil, or the statewide aver­age in­crease in lo­cal wealth per pupil, or the rate of 2.5 per­cent.

Pilewski said, “It has been a chal­lenge to bal­ance our FY 18 bud­get, but we were able to im­ple­ment some cre­ative so­lu­tions to make our fi­nances work for this year. We are proud to have sub­mit­ted the third low­est bud­get in the last 15 years. How­ever, the re­al­ity is that the de­ci­sions we were forced to make this year will con­tinue to play out in fu­ture years. We re­main com­mit­ted to a fis­cally conser va­tive ap­proach while bal­anc­ing the es­sen­tial needs of our school sys­tem as we work to­wards our long term goals in part­ner­ship with our County Com­mis­sion­ers.”

High­lights from next year’s bud­get in­clude:

• The el­e­men­tary school me­dia spe­cial­ists were pre­served by draw­ing from the fund bal­ance, ef­fec­tively us­ing one-time money to pre­serve these po­si­tions.

• Salary im­prove­ments for the 2017-2018 are $1,970,000 mil­lion.

These were funded in part by pro­jected at­tri­tion, po­si­tion cuts and cur­rent year at­tri­tion/po­si­tion changes.

• $428,750 in con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions in­clud­ing: le­gal fees, bus con­tracts and main­te­nance con­tracts.

• The un­re­stricted bud­get has an in­crease of $1,913,093, which in­cludes salary in­creases, con­tracted ser­vices, sup­plies, other charges (in­clud­ing heath in­surance), equip­ment and trans­fers.

• The con­struc­tion fund, which in­cludes tech­nol­ogy and an ad­di­tion to Gra­sonville El­e­men­tary School, is $8,881,993, which com­bines both state and county fund­ing.

• The to­tal re­stricted fund is bud­geted to be $6,561,317, which in­cludes fed­eral grants, state grants and other grants.

Us­ing funds from the prior year fund bal­ance only meets that par­tic­u­lar need for one year, Pilewski stressed. The fund bal­ance is typ­i­cally funds re­main­ing from lower than es­ti­mated heat­ing costs and has his­tor­i­cally been set aside for emer­gency mid-year main­te­nance

is­sues, he said. An­other fund­ing source will need to be found to con­tinue to sup­port the me­dia spe­cial­ists po­si­tions after this year.

Keep­ing salary im­prove­ments of $1.97 mil­lion — a pri­or­ity for the board this year — was a key con­sid­er­a­tion in the FY18 bud­get, said Pilewski.

Ul­ti­mately, the board ended up us­ing end of the year money to fund things that should be pro­vided for in the bud­get, in or­der to bal­ance the bud­get and make pro­vi­sions for po­si­tions that were nec­es­sary for in­clu­sion for the up­com­ing school year, he said.

When the vote was called to ap­prove the FY18 bud­get as pre­sented, Capt. Bev­erly Kelly was the only vote against.

Fol­low­ing the vote, Kelly spoke in fa­vor of keep­ing the pub­lic in­formed — well in ad­vance — of bud­get con­cerns. She said she con­sid­ered it pru­dent to be­gin work­ing ear­lier on bus con­tracts, say­ing that in her opin­ion they had been shafted hav­ing to pay so much at the last minute to lock in bus con­tracts for the past school

year. Those con­tracts are for three years.

Ad­di­tion­ally, said Kelly, stake­hold­ers should re­al­ize that if the county doesn’t fund salary in­creases go­ing for­ward, staff cuts will have to hap­pen. Things that the board be­lieves are im­por­tant to par­ents and guardians are class sizes and ad­e­quate em­ployee com­pen­sa­tion. We want to en­gage the com­mu­nity and get their feed­back [on up­com­ing bud­gets], she said.

Board mem­ber Sharon Har­low voiced her sup­port for Kelly’s con­cerns and agreed that the pub­lic should be in­volved ear­lier and more openly in the bud­get process.

The fis­cal 2019 bud­get is al­ready in the fore­front of our minds as we con­tinue to fore­cast our five-year bud­get plan, Pilewski said, adding that pub­lic in­put and opin­ion is a vi­tal part of the bud­get process.

As the 2017-2018 school year be­gins, he said the board hopes the pub­lic will take into con­sid­er­a­tions the par­ent sur­veys, pub­lic bud­get work ses­sions, and bud­get hear­ings that start to oc­cur in the fall.

GREGORY PILEWSKI

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