The Howard County Board of Education approved the collaborative plan with the County Government to reduce the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Health and Dental Fund deficit. The modified plan sent to the Board earlier this week from County Executive Calvin Ball, proposed eliminating the debt of $39.2 million over four years, through year-end savings and one-time funds from the County.
The updated plan amended the original proposal by preserving at least $8 million of the unassigned fund balance, introducing a mechanism to ensure HCPSS is accountable for generating year-end savings, and a longer time frame to minimize the impact on County services.
“The county executive’s recommendation advances accountability and sustainability through his proposed modifications,” said HCPSS Superintendent Michael Martirano. “My goal has always been to eliminate the deficit as quickly as possible; however, we cannot do so without collaboration with our county partners.”
Each year until fiscal year 2024, the deficit would be reduced by $6 to $11 million. The county will contribute $13 million in total one-time funding, contingent upon HCPSS meeting established yearend savings targets, and the Maryland State Department of Education (excluding one-time county funding from the maintenance-of-effort base calculation); and preservation of $8 million in unassigned fund balance in HCPSS General Fund throughout the duration of the modified plan period.
The modified plan is consistent with the original proposal by addressing the deficit immediately in fiscal 2020, retaining the $13 million in county contributions and $26.7 million in HCPSS year-end savings, and provides enough funding to eliminate the $20.7 million interfund loan by the end of fiscal 2021.