The Howard County Board of Education on Feb. 13, adopted its Operating and Capital Budget Requests for the 2020–2021 school year (fiscal 2021), and Capital Improvement Program for fiscal 2022–26. The budget requests will be submitted to the Howard County Executive in early March.
The fiscal 2021 Operating Budget Request totals $947.8 million, which is a $46.5 million, or 5.2 percent increase over the fiscal 2020 Operating Budget. The Board’s requested increase for ongoing county revenues to support the delivery of educational services is $44.0 million, inclusive of $10.4 million mandated by the state’s Maintenance of Effort (MOE) formula, a total increase of 7.2 percent over the prior year appropriation.
The Board’s budget request also includes $6 million in one-time funding to reduce the Health Fund deficit, pursuant to the tentative agreement between the county and the Board of Education, and subject to the County Council’s approval.
County funding separates into three types:
● Maintenance of Effort (MOE) funding formula: $617.6 million, an increase of $10.4 million from last year
● Above MOE request of $33.5 million
● A request of $6 million in one-time funding to pay down the Health Fund deficit
The total funding request from the county, including the request for one-time funds, is $657.2 million, an increase of $49.9 million. The balance of revenues to fund the Board’s budget request come from state, federal and other sources:
● State revenue: $282.6 million
● Federal and Other revenue: $8.0 million
The budget request includes funding to meet Board obligations that include negotiated agreements, increases in costs for employee benefits and transportation, and additions to staffing and other cost increases associated with enrollment growth. The request also includes funding to address a critical staffing shortage in special education and one-time funding of $6.0 million to reduce the accumulated Health Fund deficit.
Preliminary information received from the county and state indicate that fiscal 2021 funding allocations are expected to be significantly lower than what is needed to fulfill school system obligations and the priorities expressed in the superintendent’s budget proposal. The board made several difficult decisions to reduce the budget request by $16.2 million from the funding amounts proposed by the superintendent:
● Increase class sizes to reduce the budget request by approximately $9.2 million, an amount equivalent to a class size increase of 1 at all levels, but with the specific increases for each level still to be determined. The decision would not result in any staff layoffs; any necessary reductions to staffing levels would be implemented through natural attrition and/or by reducing the number of new hires.
● Phase in the Superintendent’s proposed plan to address critical shortages in special education staffing. The Board’s request adds 106 special education positions during fiscal 2021, with the balance of the 216 new positions proposed by the Superintendent to be added during the following budget year. This difficult decision lowers the budget request by approximately $4.2 million.
● Reduce the one-time funding request for the Health Fund deficit by $3 million.
The request for one-time funding of $6 million to reduce the Health Fund deficit is the outcome of the school system’s collaboration with the county executive to establish a five-year plan to eliminate the deficit by the end of fiscal 2024. The plan, pending final approval by the Howard County Council, includes the use of one-time fund balance accumulated from savings realized in fiscal 2019, annual one-time contributions from county government, and the generation of continued budgetary savings by HCPSS.
The Board also adopted the fiscal 2021 Capital Budget request totaling $99.1 million and the fiscal 2022–26 Capital Improvement Program request totaling $408.8 million. The Capital Budget requests include funding for costs associated with construction of the Talbott Springs Elementary School Replacement, scheduled to open in fall 2022; construction of new high school no. 13, targeted to open in fall 2023; and the Hammond High School Renovation and Addition, scheduled for completion in fall 2023. Additional funding is allocated for systemic renovations and ongoing projects, which include roofing projects, playground equipment maintenance, relocatable classrooms, technology, and maintenance projects at several schools.
The board will submit its budget requests to Howard County Executive Calvin Ball in early March. Ball will submit his proposed budget to the County Council in April, and the County Council will adopt the Howard County budget in May. The board is scheduled to approve the final fiscal 2021 Operating and Capital Budgets and fiscal 2022–26 Capital Improvement Program on Thursday, May 28, at 3 p.m.
Information about the Operating and Capital budgets and related documentation, and a full budget process schedule are provided at www.hcpss.org/about-us/budgets/fy21.