Wicomcio schools budget proposal tops $200 million

The public will have an opportunity to comment on the Wicomico County Board of Education’s proposed budget for FY 2018 at a public hearing on April 13.

No tax increase is planned to fund the budget for local schools, tasked with educating 14,889 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grades, said County Executive Bob Culver.

He said he received the document two weeks ago. It is required by the state to be passed in June.

The county’s public hearing will be at 6 p.m. in the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center.

Schools spokeswoman Tracy Sahler said the total proposed budget for FY 2018 is $205,107.881, including a local county appropriation of $42,935,196, other revenue in the amount of $3,961,838, and state revenue of $144,966,033.

“Federal revenue — restricted grant revenue — is $13,244,814. The restated budget for FY 2017 — 2016-2017 — is $198,937.485,” Sahler said.

New funding requests include:

  • $2.8 million in pay raises and benefits for teachers, administrator and staff.
  • $628,000 for 10 reading intervention teachers and enrollment growth.
  • $235,000 for three assistants, one social worker and two interpreters.
  • $407,000 for a 1.25 percent increase for bus contractors including 12 replacement buses.
  • $345,000 to enhance telecommunications.
  • $606,000 for construction related to Choices relocation and Parkside renovation.

“We are doing Maintenance of Effort this year and that will bring it up a little over $1 million from what we gave them last year. We are doing that. That will be put forth. We haven’t gotten all the numbers in from the state yet, as far as our incomes,” Culver told the Salisbury Independent this week.

Maintenance of Effort is the level of local county funding required by state law.

“Since the 2008-2009 economic decline, our county government has faced some very difficult funding issues, but has managed to fund MOE in each year since FY 2013. The Board of Education, in an effort to reflect our commitment to bring about an economic recovery, will once again only ask our County government for MOE level funding,” the Executive Summary in the proposed budget states.

Superintendent Dr. Donna Hanlin said adopting an MOE budget “was the best thing to do a sign of our good faith.”

“We hope this will go hand in hand with an additional $2.8 million in one-time requests that would not affect MOE. These one-time requests are for instructional technology and for safety and security in our schools, and are much needed. We are looking forward to giving our County Council and County Executive a demonstration of how we use technology to support student learning on Monday, April 10, in a classroom at Fruitland Intermediate School,” Hanlin said.

The $2.8 million requested is for $819,000 for technology in classrooms and $1.99 million for safety and security.

“There are many needs for the school system that could not be funded in this budget. Close to $8 million in requests from principals and budget managers are listed in the Requests Unfunded part of the budget. You can read page after page of education needs that cannot be addressed in next year’s budget due to limited funding,” she said.

Agreeing, school board member Ron Willey, at a recent meeting, also supported the $2.8 million.

“It is my hope that this budget will be received by (the County Executive and County Council) in the manner in which we send it, that we have understood that we are still recovering from a time of recession, and that monies are not coming in as quickly as we would have hoped they would, so thus we have given them a Maintenance of Effort budget, but also realizing that they could do one-time funding [that would not affect MOE and future budgets] and that our needs there are very great,” Willey said.

School board member Gene Malone Jr. said he supports Hanlin in her first proposed budget at the MOE level and added he has faith in her, as well as in schools Comptroller Bruce Ford.

“I hope the council’s watching, and Mr. Culver’s watching, and I hope that we get those one-time funding (items) that we need. And I hope the public realizes how much we agonized over managing their tax dollars and providing for what’s the most important thing for this community, and that’s educating students,” he said.

Lengthy and detailed, the 199-page Proposed Consolidated Current Expense Budget will be reviewed by Culver, who will submit a written report explaining requests that were denied or reduced. The County Council may restore anything cut, according to the Executive Summary.

Hanlin and her staff will work on any necessary revisions. The budget is expected to be passed by the County Council on June 13.

Zero-based budgeting was used to prepare the budget. Each manager “started as if they were allotted $0 for programs and had to justify from dollar one, each of their requests,” the Executive Summary states.

Wicomico County schools, organized in 1867, were attended by more than 92 percent of children living in the county during the 2016-2017 school year. The school system employs 2,200 full-time and 800 part-time employees.

Teachers with a bachelor’s degree earn $43,331 annually, compared to the state average of $44,163.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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