School budget request tops last year’s by $5.3 million
CENTREVILLE — Queen Anne’s County Public Schools are seeking $59,442,983 from the county for fiscal 2019, the local portion of a proposed $101,653,299 budget for the next school year.
That request is up $5.3 million from last year and $3.94 million over maintenance of effort, a state law that requires local jurisdictions to spend at least as much money per student as they did the previous year.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Andrea Kane presented her proposed budget to the school board Wednesday, March 7. The school board approved the proposed budget during a work session March 16.
Kane outlined new positions she hoped to add: an assistant principal at Kent Island High, one classroom teacher at Kent Island Elementary and one at Centreville Middle, two new teaching positions at Queen Anne’s County High, a driver trainer in the transportation department, and an electrician and carpenter.
Maintenance of effort does not address inflation, rising costs, new programs or initiatives, Kane said. This figure only increases with increased enrollment, and should not be considered a ceiling for funding, rather a minimum/base funding requirement, she added.
The cost of educating a student in Queen Anne’s is nearly $2,000 less per student than the state average, according to the Maryland State Department of Education.
“If we were to receive only MOE from the county our budget would need to be reduced $3,947,722,” said Kane, which would eliminate any new positions and leave $3.2 more million to cut.
“At an average cost of $85,000 per teacher, 38 additional positions would need to be cut to balance the budget,” said Kane. “There is no possible way we can find $3.2 million to balance our budget without cutting positions that living, breathing, mortgage-paying people sit in today.”
This year the bulk of the budget is attributed to instruction, falling just below $39 million. The next highest expense category is employee benefits, $20.2 million, and special education is allotted the next highest at $8.35 million, with transportation at $6.7 million and operations coming in at $6.24 million. Administration rounds out the budget at $1.98 million, just 2 percent of the total operations budget, Kane said, responding to concerns about a bloated central office staff.
In reviewing contract negotiations, Kane said the school system would be looking at step increases and cost of living increases, among others. As of the March 7 meeting, the administration was still in negotiations.
Kane said, “We have got to do a better job of paying our employees ... it is my responsibility to request [those funds],” adding, “we will be transparent [about the budget].”
If the budget would need to be trimmed due to lack of funding, Kane outlined several possible cost saving measures, including: staffing reviews at all schools; Health Care Coverage – EPO Individuals – 90/10 premium sharing; Pay to Play for sports programs; not funding a step; not funding a COLA; delayed implementation of salary improvements; furlough day; and admission fees for students attending athletic events.
“Are we requesting growth or status quo?” Kane asked. “[In the county] we see a new courthouse, growth, discussions for a new librar y, but what we are offering our students is not reflective of that growth.”
The county administration’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget, introduced March 13, totals $138.1 million. In it, the board of education is proposed to be funded at maintenance of effort, which would be an increase of $1.4 million from this year. The Board of Education is listed at $56,884,381.
County budget work sessions have been scheduled in March and April with public hearings to be held on April 23, 24 and 25 on Kent Island, Centreville and in north county, respectively. The final county budget is scheduled for adoption on May 22.