Wicomico schools would increase spending 3.78%

The Wicomico County Board of Education has approved a $236.98 million budget for the 2021 fiscal year, which increases total spending by $8.6 million, or 3.78 percent.

Dr. Donna Hanlin.

The budget is essentially flat to the state’s Maintenance of Effort spending number, which is determined through a formula that ensures a school system is adequately funding public education.

The county’s contribution to schools spending would increase by $1.53 million, from the current $46.16 million annually to $47.69 million, a 3.32 percent increase.

The remaining dollars would come from the state — $160.06 million — and the federal government — $15.06 million. Other sources of revenue would fund the remaining $5.7 million. 

The budget reflects the goals touted by Superintendent Dr. Donna Hanlin, as outlined in her “Imagine 2022” and “Achieve! 4.0” strategic planning.

Achieve! 4.0 continues a focus on three original priorities by ensuring that:

–Students are reading on grade level by Grade 3.

–Students graduate, and are prepared for college or are career ready.

–A high-performing workforce is in place to serve the schools.

For Fiscal 2021, a new strategic priority has been added: Ensuring that all schools are safe for student learning. 

An additional $ 301,772 would be spent on the reading priority, by beefing up the county’s Pre-Kindergarten programs with additional teachers and materials.

To increase the graduation rate, $995,037 would be spent to add teachers and support the increasing needs of Special Education students.

The largest additional expenditure — $4.55 million — would go toward paying, recruiting and retaining a high-performing workforce.

To increase positive school climate and safety, the school board would spend an additional $777,710 by hiring more social workers, student deans and school resource officers.

The budget shows that food services in the system’s 24 schools has again remained self-sufficient and will require no budget subsidy, a departure from past years.

“As reflected in our annual reports for the past three years, we are making steady progress towards our goals for Wicomico County Public Schools,” Hanlin said in her budget letter.

“Together we can continue our momentum in making great things happen for our students and our community. We look forward to working with the County Executive, County Council, and our community to ensure that every dollar invested in our school system will directly benefit all children to turn our vision and aspirations into reality.”

The school system’s projected enrollment for the next school year is $15,203 students, up from 14,590 students a decade ago. Wicomico has more students than Worcester, Somerset and Dorchester counties combined.

Wicomico County’s contribution to the operating budget has increased by about $6 million annually over the past five years. In 2016-17, it was $41.93 million, compared to $47.68 million this upcoming year.

Last year, for the first time in more than a decade, the county funded the schools above the state’s minimum requirement. Hanlin and school board members decided to hold spending in line with Maintenance of Effort guidelines for this year, however, as the county is facing unknown budget impacts related to Kirwan Commission improvement recommendations and state minimum wage hikes.

The school system met its March 15 deadline to present a budget to the County Executive. Next, the County Council is expected to adopt the spending plan by My 29. Once those steps are taken, the school board would formally adopt the budget June 9, to be enacted July 1.

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