The Howard County Board of Education is nearing the end of their initial FY 21 Operating Budget Process. Remaining on the schedule is one additional work session (February 11th) and then adoption of the budget on February 13th. Then is goes forward to HoCoGov and our County Council…before coming back to the board in May of 2020.

There has been a lot of talk about the last work session and I wanted to add my thoughts…thank goodness I have the blog that allows me to do that from time to time (LOL). Here is an example of what is being posted online about a decision made at the last work session (on February 6th):

**$33 MILLION IN CUTS TO STUDENT PROGRAMS AND SERVICES PROPOSED FOR FY21 BUDGET**
This week, the Board of Education met for their work session to discuss the FY21 operating budget. Instead of recommending a budget based on school needs, BOE member Jen Mallo proposed cutting $33 million from Superintendent Martirano’s proposal (since that was all that she thought that County Executive Ball would give them) and the Board passed this controversial motion in a 4-3 decision. The “savings” that they are considering include:
1) $7M for a 2 year-phase-in of the 217 Special Education positions
2) $5M by freezing new enrollment staffing
3) $2.4M by eliminating 36 Middle School GT positions
4) $10M by increasing class size by 1+
5) $1.4M by cutting Elementary Band/Strings (21 FTEs)
These proposed cuts only adds up to ~$25.8 million, which means that the Board is still looking for an additional $7.2 million in order to reach the needed $33 million in total savings.
The Board of Education will be holding an additional work session next Tuesday, February 11th at 12:00 PM. Please take a moment to write an email to the BoE, the County Council and County Executive and share your thoughts on these proposed cuts.
Is there really nothing else to cut from bloated areas of the budget (e.g. transportation!!!) to free up funding for critical student services such as desperately needed special education staff & resources and enriching student programs such as middle school gifted & talented, middle school music sectionals, elementary schools strings/band, and overall class sizes?
As many, including some Board members, have pointed out: the County Executive and the County Council will not provide funds that our board does not request.
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A couple of points I would like to make in regards to what is posted above:

1 – This is an ask of $33 million less than the HCPSS Superintendent ask in his proposed budget…or better put…an ask of $30 million in additional funding for HCPSS in the operating budget next year ($24.2 million + 6 million in one time funding for the health care defect) instead of an ask of $63 million.

If you add up funding increases from the county to HCPSS over the last 4 budget cycles (FY2017 – FY2020) the total amount of new funding (including “one time funding”) is $63,055,375.

2 – HoCoGov sent a letter to the HoCoBOE outlining the budget outlook for next year and provided numbers for the HoCoBOE: https://scotteblog.com/2020/01/12/howard-county-government-sends-information-to-the-county-council-about-the-hcpss-superintendents-proposed-budget-for-fy2021/

Note in the document the expected revenue for the County next year: “Assuming revenue growth mirrors the $36.5 million generated in FY2020”.

3 – I think the starting point that the HoCoBOE is going with is appropriate. We can argue about what should or should not be cut from the HCPSS Superintendent proposal…but I think given the information we have from the county and historical funding they are starting at the right point (again…my opinion).

4 – The is little to no chance that if / when the requests moves forward later this month at $30 million in additional funding will the quest be fully funded. We will be right back at looking for areas to reduce again in May of 2020. I hope the HoCoBOE members start that sooner rather than later in the process.

I just wanted to make sure we all understand what is being discussed as we have these conversations.

I am all for advocating for the school system to receive as much funding as possible…and I highly recommend that you all reach out to board members, council members and the County Executive and advocate for that funding this year:

Superintendent
Michael Martirano: Superintendent@hcpss.org
Board of Education Members
Mavis Ellis, Chair: mavis_ellis@hcpss.org
Vicky Cutroneo, Vice Chair: vicky_cutroneo@hcpss.org
Kirsten Coombs: kirsten_coombs@hcpss.org
Christina Delmont-Small: christina_delmont-small@hcpss.org
Jennifer Mallo: jennifer_mallo@hcpss.org
Sabina Taj: sabina_taj@hcpss.org
Chao Wu: chao_wu@hcpss.org
County Council
Deb Jung: DJung@howardcountymd.gov
Opel Jones: ojones@howardcountymd.gov
Christiana Mercer Rigby:drigby@howardcountymd.gov
Liz Walsh: ewalsh@howardcountymd.gov
David Yungmann dyungmann@howardcountymd.gov
County Executive
Calvin Ball: CBall@howardCountymd.gov

Here are some recent articles that you might find helpful in this discussion with historical data and my opinions about that data:

Presentation of the Superintendent’s Proposed FY21 Operating Budget on January 9th

HCPSS Superintendent proposed operating budget looks for more than $63 million in additional county funding in 2021

Howard County Government sends information to the County Council about the HCPSS Superintendent’s proposed budget for FY2021

Scott E

7 COMMENTS

  1. Don’t waste your time contacting the board. You will just be dismissed as “racist”.

    Better to vote with your feet. Enjoy the decline of your school system, HoCo.

  2. Scott, somebody forwarded your post to me and I would like add some comments.

    I believe this is a misconception about the budget discussion. The board voted to ask for 4% funding increase from the county government, plus one time funding to reduce the health fund deficit . We have not decided where the “savings” will come from. Even with 4% funding increase, we still don’t have enough money to keep everything the same unfortunately. We would love to hear from you what to keep, what to go. This is a difficult process and the pain will be felt by everybody unfortunately. We have another budget work session on Tuesday, where those savings will be discussed again.

    Chao Wu, HoCo BOE

    • Thanks. That is why I wrote my comments at the end of the article…so that everyone understand the various aspects of what is happening and being discussed and the history.

  3. I just love how reducing the bloated bureaucracy and inefficiencies at central office are never considered. I know it is a drop in the bucket, but it appears everyone suffers except those who cannot manage their way out of a paper bag. How about eliminating minimally productive, high paying positions and making dead wood easier to fire?

    As an aside, I’ve always resented the middle school music program because those students are scheduled first, whereas the most academically needy students are not – putting them in less than optimal classes during the day. Minimally adequate yes – optimal never.

  4. Scott & Dr. Wu, some of the above words are mine and some Scott’s. The motion that passed was to ask for the 4%. That created the need to cut 33M. The possible savings discussed are accurate. Will those be the ones the board goes with or will the motion to stay within a 4% ask remain? I don’t know. I inserted a link in my message for people to watch the meeting.

  5. How about we cut the useless Standardized testing that the county pays millions for? How about cut the PSAT 9 and PSAT 10 (College Board product)? SAT/ACT’s are becoming useless with more colleges not considering the scores. Get rid of AP (another College Board product) because colleges aren’t excepting the scores. If parents wish to pay for SAT,ACT,AP they can still pursue that option the same as they do now. At the ES-MS level they can get rid of MAPP testing and KRA testing. Millions of dollars spent on the testing industry so that parents have bragging rights over scores on tests that can never determine the intelligence of a human being. But the county will keep on….because it loves it’s ratings in US World New Reports (even though the county PAYS to have the data analyzed). I’ve already voted with my feet….but my taxes still pay for a bogus/sham school system that is nothing but a common core, test prep mill of dysfunction, disruption and mis -education of children (and I’m not blaming the teachers!).

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