Howard County Board of Education Adopts FY 2020 Operating and Capital Budgets

I know…this happened a few days ago but I was waiting to get a full detailed list of everything that happened at the HoCoBOE meeting before publishing. The HCPSS put out a news release yesterday with details. Here is what they released:

The Howard County Board of Education adopted its Operating Budget for the 2019-2020 school year (FY 2020) on June 6, 2019. The budget totals $894.2 million, representing $607.2 million in county funding – approximately $7.1 million above Maintenance of Effort, the minimum level of funding required by state law – $269.3 million from the state, and $17.7 million from federal and other sources. The budget also incorporates a $10 million transfer from the HCPSS General Fund balance in order to fulfill obligations; this is a one-time use of funds for recurring expenses. The budget fulfills the negotiated agreements for all bargaining units, maintains class sizes and fully funds employee health care costs.

Factoring in state funding, including an additional $5.1 million of state Kirwan Commission supplemental funding to support teacher salaries and Pre-K instruction, and the proposed use of an additional $2 million from the HCPSS General Fund balance, the Board of Education made difficult decisions (listed below) to close a nearly $38 million shortfall. Some of the Board’s actions will require approval by the County Council to transfer funds between categories. Subject to approval by the County later this summer, these funding transfers will increase the operating budget to $901.3 million, increasing the use of the fund balance to $12 million.

“On behalf of the Howard County Board of Education, I would like to thank all who participated in the development of our FY 2020 budget, from the County Executive to community members, and from the County Council to HCPSS educators. We heard many voices,” said Board Chair Mavis Ellis. “It was a true collaborative process with the Board, Superintendent and staff working together to ensure we adopted a balanced budget, which funds our negotiated contracts, maintains class sizes and keeps the health fund fully funded. This collaboration will continue as we focus on the next budget for FY 2021 to address meeting the needs of all 58,000 students in our care.”

The budget reflects the significant challenges facing the Board in allocating sufficient resources to fulfill negotiated salary and benefit agreements, maintain class sizes, and accommodate rapid enrollment growth. As a result, the Board made the difficult decisions to reduce instructional support and technology teaching and general education paraprofessional positions, freeze central office salaries and positions, leave some essential positions unfilled, and delay critical investments in technology and instructional materials.

The Board’s funds will also allow the system to fully cover expected FY 2020 employee health expenses, and thus avoid further growth to a $37 million Health Fund debt, which accrued over several years. The Board’s reductions will allow HCPSS to fully fund health care costs in order to avoid adding to this debt and restore many of the anticipated position reductions among paraeducators and math and reading support teachers, which have proven instrumental to providing effective support for struggling students.

The budget is supported by $8.7 million in funding allocated by the State specifically to address recommendations by the Kirwan Commission for teacher salary increases, Pre-K education, special education, mental health, and support for struggling learners. Howard County Council also requested that $400 thousand of its funding allocation be targeted to support transportation routing software upgrades and $300 thousand to allow $5/day raises for substitute teachers, and the Board voted to comply with both requests.

“I greatly appreciate our Board and community for their steadfast commitment to our students despite a very difficult financial climate,” said Dr. Michael J. Martirano, Howard County Public School System Superintendent. “Through their strong support, our excellent staff will receive the compensation and benefits they so so heartily deserve. Over the summer, we will continue the engagement with our funders and other community partners so that as a community, we can make decisions about the future of our schools and the kind of revenues we need to realize that future.”

The Board adopted a FY 2020 Capital Budget totaling $56.6 million, for costs associated with construction of a replacement Talbott Springs Elementary School, scheduled to open in fall 2022; construction of a new 13th county high school, targeted to open in fall 2023; and a renovation and addition to Hammond High School, scheduled for completion in fall 2023. Additional funding is allocated for systemic renovations, which include replacements and upgrade of rooftops and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems at several schools.

Details of the budget decisions are available online.

The Board’s budget decisions included:

  • Reduction of 20.2 elementary instructional technology teachers; addition of 3.7 elementary library media specialist positions
  • Reduction of 11.6 reading support teacher positions
  • Reduction of 11.6 math support teacher positions
  • Reduction of 10 math instructional support teacher positions
  • Reduction of 15 pool teacher positions
  • Reduction of 76 general education paraeducator positions, including 15 middle school math and 5 middle school reading paraeducator positions
  • Reduction of $1.5 million from utilities
  • Reduction of $150,000 from the Print Services fund
  • Systemwide reductions in supplies
  • Reduction of 3 central office positions
  • Reducing increases for all central office staff not covered by bargaining units, and freezing increases for those earning above $125,000/year


It was a difficult budget year for schools in Howard County…and the outlook for next year looks to be possibly another difficult budget year.

There has been much talk about raising more revenue for the schools using tools like raising developer fees and raising property taxes. Given the difficulties with the school budget, it would not totally surprise me if we see something considered over the next year.

Scott E

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