Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Budget Decisions are Looming

On May 19 the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners held a public hearing on the FY16 budget.  Close to 52% of the expenditures in the entire county budget are for Calvert County Public Schools. We expect a final decision on the budget by the first week of June.  My comments at that hearing are published below.

Gentlemen of the Calvert County Board of Commissioners, county staff, ladies and gentlemen:

      When I agreed to come to Calvert County Public Schools to be superintendent I knew I was coming to one of the highest performing, best supported school districts in MD.  I read the papers last budget season and knew there were some challenges ahead.  Those challenges were confirmed in the early months of this school year.

I set a goal to trim and get leaner, in order to stop the use of fund balance (savings/emergency fund) for operating expenses and in order to provide raises.  I submitted a budget in January that did that.  Then anticipated support from the state was reduced by 3.2 million, then anticipated support from the county was reduced, then we got a little back from the general assembly, then we were advised that the county support would be reduced to the minimal maintenance of effort (MoE), which was $1.25 million less than previously discussed.

Some truths that we must acknowledge:

·      We are losing enrollment - that is a projection that is unchanged for the next decade.

·      We, the county, are losing revenues due to the economy.

·      We have been using fund balance for this the third year in a row just to make ends meet.

·      80% of our budget is spent on salary and benefits for employees.

·      It appears that without some change, we will be destined to slowly dismantle one of the best school districts in MD.

The board of education budget as submitted requests $117,875,742 which includes a little over $4.8 million for teacher pension.   This request includes $3 million more than MoE funding for operating costs.  Even if you would grant that amount of funding this budget request:

·      provides  no money for raises for employees

·      relies upon $2 million in fund balance

·      reduces operating costs by $1 million dollars

·      eliminates 3 district office administrator positions

·      eliminates 3 vice principal positions

·      reduces 5 vice-principal positions from 12 month to 11 and 10 month

·      eliminates 3 district office clerical positions

·      reduces teachers at schools proportionate to loss of enrollment

If you would grant that funding, we would be able to prevent a significant reduction in teaching and support positions throughout the county.  However, if we are funded at MoE as indicated, our bare bones budget will have:

·      28  fewer teaching positions

·      31  fewer Instructional assistant positions 

·      7.5  fewer deans than this school year

The total number of positions targeted for elimination exceeds 75, however I want to be clear we do not project that 75 individuals will be out of work when school begins next year.   This year we offered a retirement incentive that almost 50 employees agreed to.  With that and normal attrition it is more likely that no more than 20, and perhaps far less than that, individuals will find themselves unemployed by CCPS when school starts.

If 3 million is too much and you would like to consider some targeted increases above MoE, I can tell you that $500K will restore approximately 10 of the 28 teaching positions.  A reduction of 7.5 deans is worth $365K.  $225K will restore approximate 10 of the 31 instructional assistants.

(Here I told a clever story about a farmer losing his donkey in an old well.  You had to be there.)

There are things we can do together to resolve these issues. 

I request that you consider a temporary tax increase earmarked to support schools and return to original number when Dominion payments begin.

At the very least, lets agree to partner together to see what we can do to spur economic development in Calvert County.

I don’t envy you.  You have a hard job.  I would not want it.  There is less to go around yet we all seem to want more.  I assure you that we will continue to provide the best service to this community with whatever you determine should be our allocation.   But if these conditions continue without change, it will be difficult for us to maintain the same standard of quality that this community expects and deserves. 

Thank you.