The Howard County Board of Education approved the collaborative plan with the County Government to reduce the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Health and Dental Fund deficit. The modified plan sent to the Board earlier this week from County Executive Calvin Ball, proposed eliminating the debt of $39.2 million over four years, through year-end savings and one-time funds from the County.

“This was a collaborative effort that is possible thanks to shared accountability from HCPSS and the County,” said County Executive Calvin Ball. “I’m grateful to the Board of Education and Dr. Martirano for working with my administration to identify a multi-year, pragmatic approach to eliminating the Health Fund debt, so that we can make significant and consistent progress each year until the deficit is fully resolved.”

The updated plan amended the original proposal by preserving at least $8 million of the unassigned fund balance, introducing a mechanism to ensure HCPSS is accountable for generating year-end savings, and a longer time frame to minimize the impact on County services.

“The County Executive’s recommendation advances accountability and sustainability through his proposed modifications,” said HCPSS Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano. “My goal has always been to eliminate the deficit as quickly as possible, however, we cannot do so without collaboration with our County partners.”

Each year the deficit would be reduced by $6 to $11 million until fiscal year 2024. The County will contribute $13 million in total one-time funding, contingent upon HCPSS meeting established yearend savings targets, and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) excluding one-time County funding from the Maintenance-of-Effort (MOE) base calculation; and preservation of $8 million in unassigned fund balance in HCPSS General Fund throughout the duration of the modified plan period.

The modified plan is consistent with the original proposal by addressing the deficit immediately in fiscal year 2020, retaining the $13 million in County contributions and $26.7 million in HCPSS year-end savings, and provides enough funding to eliminate the $20.7 million interfund loan by the end of fiscal year 2021.