Interesting comments about the proposed HCPSS budget have been floating around on social media…from elected officials and even candidates running for office in 2018. Here are a few that caught my eye:
March 5th: Cynthia L. Vaillancourt, Chairman Howard County Board of Education (this one was a public post that has been shared by many and has even been shared on other blogs):
We adopted a heartbreaking budget this evening. We raised class sizes for all grades except kindergarten. We suspended all elementary school foreign language. We reduced the increases in special ed. We reduced building maintenance. We reduced our capital budget request.
We did not include furloughs. We restored playground monitors. We added 66 special education staff (educators and para-educators). We committed to funding the full 85% of the health insurance premiums.
But this is only the request. If the county does not fully fund it, there will need to be more cuts.
We need the community to contact the County Exec and the County Council to let them all know how they feel about fully funding education.
If we are to provide the level of service the community expects, we will need to be restored to 58% of the county budget — not the 52% we have been reduced to over the past several years.
Please consider attending the County Executive’s budget public hearing on Thursday, March 8.
This post has been shared by many candidates running for office with a request to show up on the 8th to testify in support of fully funding the HCPSS proposed budget.
Here is an example from Chirstiana Rigby, candidate for Howard County Council in District 3:
#HCPSS I want to be sure everyone sees this message from Board of Education Chair Cindy Vaillancourt. We need everyone to tell the county executive that our school system MUST be fully funded. In addition to the cuts below, our teachers may not even receive the step increases they’ve been promised. We can and must do better for our kids, our teachers and our community.
(Then the message from Cindy Vaillancourt)
Yesterday: Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman shared this post from his official Facebook page:
It is disappointing that inaccurate information is being shared about education funding in the County. The total amount of funding for education in Howard County has not been decreased. My administration has consistently funded the Howard County Public School System at a rate of at least 58% of the total County budget.
What is important to understand is that County funding includes the total HCPSS Operating Budget along with the HCPSS’ benefits for retirees and debt service obligation. The difficult budget choices before the BOE now are a direct result of its lack of appropriate fiscal management of their health and dental fund over the past 10 years.
My administration has consistently funded the HCPSS above the Maintenance of Effort requirement. My direct funding per pupil in the most recent budget is 3rd highest in the State at $10,321, exceeding the State average by 41 percent. Education in Howard County has always been my priority and continues to be so.
The County Executive is in a tough spot because the overall Howard County Budget can not be in a great position when hiring freezes are happening (http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/columbia/ph-ho-cf-hiring-freeze-0222-story.html) so it will be interesting to see what he does with the HCPSS budget request this year.
I am sure the 52% vs 58% funding argument will continue…so many social media comments on that topic over the last 48 to 72 hours…and I am sure it is far from over yet.
I think an interesting add on to this discussion is the Fiscal Year 2019 Spending Affordability report. Here is some information shared from Steve Hunt (a member of the committee and candidate for Howard County Council – District 3) on March 1st via his campaign page:
The final FY2019 Spending Affordability Advisory Report is now available. The report can be found here:
(see link above)
I was going to wait until I was able to write a full post, but in light of the conversation that’s going on with the HCPSS budget, I thought it was important to share this as soon as I was made aware of its release. It is my hope that this report is the catalyst for an open, honest community conversation about our County’s fiscal future, rather than an excuse to write social media posts attacking people or interests.
I would like to thank the County Executive for allowing me to serve on this important committee for the past four years, and to Councilwoman Jen Terrasa for recommending me for appointment each of those years.
More to follow, but if anybody would like to discuss, please feel free to reach out. Thanks.
My favorite part of the post was this: “It is my hope that this report is the catalyst for an open, honest community conversation about our County’s fiscal future, rather than an excuse to write social media posts attacking people or interests.“…too late Steve, that has already started…it did soon after the report was released. It is an election year and attacks on social media will happen…some are warranted and some are for candidates to stand out on issues in the community. If Howard County can not fully fund the HCPSS request…I am expecting candidates all over the county to post and post and post about it…an election year..while I love it, sometimes it just is frustrating. How quickly we forget the previous HCPSS Superintendent and previous HoCoBOE members that helped put our school system in this position.
This is something everyone should read from the report:
The Committee also recognizes that this budget request does not deal with the projected $50 million
cumulative deficit for FY 2018 that HCPSS has created in its own health benefit fund. The issue is
attributable to the HCPSS consistently underfunding its health fund (in eight out of past 10 years) as
shown in the graph below, and repeatedly using its fund balance as one-time resources to support ongoing
needs. Such practices have gradually resulted in a significant and growing structural imbalance in
that fund. The Committee urges HCPSS to take ownership of the issue and develop a feasible multi-year
plan with permanent solutions to address the matter before coming to County government or County
taxpayers for assistance.
The issues with the health fund did not happen over night or even over the past few years…although it became much worse over the past few years. This is an issue the County and the school system will need to deal with…but I am betting it will take years to correct the deficit…it did not build up over night nor will it be fixed over night.
I will continue to try and keep up with what happens and may even have a future post or two on this topic.