If you watched the last couple of Howard County Board of Education (HoCoBOE) Work Sessions and the Budget Adoption meeting yesterday you saw the mess that is the HoCoBOE budget adoption process.

The HoCoBOE once again sent forward a budget that not only will not be approved (because it can’t be) fully but did so knowingly and willfully.

Here is the number that was sent to Howard County Government for HCPSS funding next year:

That number ($657,191,006) represents a 7.2% increase over the funding the school system got last year. Funding last year from the county was 607,200,000….so they are asking for a near $50 million dollar increase next year. WOW!!! Now it is less than the HCPSS Superintendents request (of around a $63 million increase) but still ridiculous.

If you add up the increases from the county in the HCPSS budget over the last 3 budget cycles…you get an amount of money of: $44,955,357. So asking for a 1 year $50 million dollar increase is reasonable and the right thing to do…NOT!!!

The board was on the right track back in earlier work sessions…”Opinion: Howard County Board of Education is making the right call reducing the operating budget ask from HCPSS Superintendent proposed FY2021 budget“…then somehow went off the rails (my opinion). I understand if you do not ask for something you will not get it…but this budget (and the request last year) is not that at all. This is asking for the moon and then telling the community the county is not fully funding us…and everything is their (the county) fault…so make them raise your taxes to fully fund us (again…my opinion).

The county has been up front with the council and board for some time now on their expectations of revenue this next year: Howard County Executive Calvin Ball Sends Letter To The Board Of Education In Advance Of Adoption of FY2021 Budget. So the board knows today what the county can and can not fund…so to send this budget forward is just wrong (I am going to continue to say this…my opinion).

The video of the session yesterday is now online: https://hcpsstv.new.swagit.com/videos/42023…so watch it for yourself or any of the previous work sessions (https://www.hcpss.org/board/meetings/) and then you can decide if our board is making the right decisions today for our community and school system.

It was interesting to see the budget request go off the rails for a little bit yesterday…then they added around $800,000 for parochial school bussing back into the budget and then it passed. That is so interesting to me…because a budget that has no chance of being fully approved dies for a minute until they added more money that they will eventually have to cut in order to go forward.

When they get SIGNIFICANTLY less money in April / May than what is in this proposed budget today (so much like last year) they will (board members) all be scrambling to figure out their budget at the last second again for FY 2021. Is that what we want our elected officials to do or should they make hard decisions now?

I am a fan of our board members…I just think they made a mistake (again) on the budget and the budget process.

Have thoughts…let me know in the comments.

Scott E

10 COMMENTS

  1. Our county is broken on many levels. The county and BOE are in this mess because of many years of mismanagement by both. County over developed and school was spending out of control for many years. On top of this, lobby groups and activists playing politics with county resources… Redistricting, taxes, zoning,…. What a mess! If I could pack and move, I would.

  2. The private school reversal vote was most disappointing. So let me get this right: no pay raise for the clearly underpaid HCPSS substitute teachers, but rather reinstate funding for PRIVATE school transportation? Hmmm. Odd values for PUBLIC school board representatives.

    Maybe there’s a political strategy going on here — e.g. deflect the “heat” from the well-heeled private school families and supporters until the budget comes back and cuts are unavoidable, but even if that is a board member’s thinking, those optics are very disconcerting.

    Remember, HCPSS stands for Howard County PUBLIC School System, not Howard County PRIVATE School System.

  3. Excuse my ignorance but what exactly does this parochial school bussing involve? If these are private schools then why our public buses being used for transportation at the expense of taxpayers?

  4. They are required by law to provide transportation for some private schools. I don’t know when it started (the state law goes back to 1943, but it’s also in the county code). The number of buses is limited probably 12-15 (of close to 500 buses total). The students that are transported are set to a specific geographic area similar to the buses that transport public school students. They total budget cost if less than $800k/yr which is less than 2% of the transportation budget (which is close to $40 million). Cutting $800k from a budget ask of $657 million (1/10%) won’t even come close to fixing the issue.

    These are taxpayers too. Their property taxes go to the education system to use towards their budgets for students they don’t have to educate. Nobody is asking for money to go towards their education. Just transportation for the same reasons public school parents need transportation for kids. There are plenty of other things that occur “at the expense of the taxpayers” that people overlook. There is plenty of fraud and waste in all government. It would make sense to work towards that.

    Again, the money is not alot compared to the 7% increase they are asking for when all other county government needs to cut budgets. And lets not forget that they still pay well over $300k/yr to the previous Superintendent.

  5. The county spends about $15,000 per pupil per year. There are roughly 6000 students attending private schools in Howard County. If all private school students attended our public schools it would cost the county an additional 90 million dollars. The county spends less than 1 million dollars on transportation for these children, saving the county 89 million dollars. Do you really want to pay the extra school taxes if those students chose to go to public schools (and pay for their busing)?

    • My short answer to your question is, “Yes.”

      I welcome the return of those students. I imagine many of them come from families that have great business leaders and managers, not to mention sharp fiscal skills. Perhaps we might then get some of those folks invested in helping us solve the problems we have with our public schools. Who knows, their input alone might help us offset the $90 million extra cost you mention.

      But even if that didn’t happen, it was pointed out during the BoE meeting on Tuesday that there seems to be the possibility that in the long run, because of the intricacies of various funding formulas, the return of those students to HCPSS might actually be close to cost-neutral.

      But alas, I doubt many private school families will pull their kids from the private schools just because we stopped providing them with bus transportation. So yeah, I guess I am calling your bluff. šŸ˜‰ And if I am wrong, again I say, “Welcome home!”

      I respect that rights of families who choose to send their children to private schools, but I also firmly believe that 100% of our public taxpayer money should go to the Howard County PUBLIC School System.

  6. First of all I think it is an insult to the 60,000 parents whose children are in public school to imply that they do not “have great business leaders and managers, not to mention sharp fiscal skills”.

    I don’t think adding 6,000 parents to the mix will help solve the problems we have with our public schools. I don’t believe these parents are any greater or sharper than the public school parents.

    If 60,000 parents can’t fix the problems, I doubt that 66,000 can.

    • I apologize if anything I wrote is misconstrued to be insulting to anyone. To the contrary, my intention is to be welcoming — and to encourage all to pull up their sleeves and help solve these complex issues within our public education paradigm.

      And yes, I do believe 66,000 gives us a better chance at that than 60,000. 300,000 would be even better. We can benefit from everyone’s involvement.

  7. I have lived in HoCo for over 50 yrs. My kids went thru the HoCo Public School System. They received a great education.

    So, I am one of the 50-60% (I am guessing the percentage) of the households that pay property taxes but do not have any kids in the school system.

    Busing the private school students is probably a legitimate use of taxpayer money. We surely don’t want a large percentage of the private school students adding an add’l burden on the over crowded public school system. We will end up with a different kind of busing.

    The cost of busing the private school students is very minor compared to other parts of the HoCo school budget.

    • Yes, it’s a small percentage. But I would argue that on the other hand, $800,000 is after all, $800,000.

      Is there mismanagement, waste and mis-guided allocation of funds within HCPSS budgets? Yes, just as within all government. And of course, we should address all those instances.

      But the current reality and issue at hand is that $800,000 is going to support private school students.

      I have been a daily degreed, non-certified sub within HCPSS for four years, and I do so in all twelve high schools. I invite you to follow me for a week of subbing, visiting a range of schools. I believe you would see many instances, as I do, of where that $800,000 could be used to make a big difference in the education of those students, many of whom do not have a choice to leave the system to attend a private school. Is that “liberal progressive”-speak? Perhaps, but that’s irrelevant. This just makes sense to me.

      And as I say in another reply above, if families do the very unlikely thing of pulling their kids from their private schools and end up placing them into HCPSS, over this issue, then so be it. I welcome them back.

      Finally, at the Tuesday hearing, HCPSS Transportation Director, David Ramsay, implied, when asked, that the time and resources spent to handle the customization of private school transportation is indeed significant. He was careful in his response, but one got the feeling that he and his staff would be relieved to be rid of the requirement. True, he and his staff have a lot on their hands as a result of the recent redistricting, and that was heavily debated, but we as a community decided that effort was worth it. That’s what we are doing here, discussing a similar controversial issue. I thank you for expressing your opinion. We as a community will make a decision on this as well.

      BTW, my wife and I are “empty-nesters” too. We are very grateful for the education our daughter got within HCPSS. That’s one of the reasons I sub.

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