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School Superintendent Says Proposed Budget 'By No Means Represents What We Really Need'

The proposed FY14 school budget includes an additional $1.7 million from county government.

At Wednesday's regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting, School Superintendent Stephen Guthrie presented his proposed FY14 budget, which includes cutting 20.5 custodial positions and asking the county commissioners for a one percent funding increase.

Guthrie said that the costs for state and federal mandates coupled with inflation make it difficult to balance the budget when revenues are not also increasing.

"This is not what I think we need," Guthrie said. "This is what we are lacking ... these are the mandates that we are not addressing."

The proposed budget includes $2.6 million in spending reductions.

Guthrie's proposed FY14 operating budget totals $330,214,129. According to Guthrie, inflationary expenses that include employee benefits, bus contracts and insurances cost the school system more than $2 million. He said that Carroll County will also have to fund mandated state and federal requirements at a cost of more than $2.3 million.

According to CCPS Chief Financial Officer Chris Hartlove, the proposed budget includes a one percent increase in county funding over last year - $1.7 million.

If county government funds the school system at Maintenance of Effort (MOE), that will translate to a $4 million reduction in funding due to declining enrollment numbers, Guthrie said.

"This [proposed FY14 budget] by no means represents what we really need in our system," Guthrie said. "This represents additional requirements that we have basically ignored over the past couple years."

Hargrove emphasized that this is a proposed budget and that it is still unclear how much education funding Carroll County will receive from the state.

According to the presentation, the state funding formula is based on three main factors: student enrollment (Carroll is down 468 students), a county's relative wealth (determined by the state), and inflation (which state government capped at one percent through FY15).

Following the presentation, Board of Education member Barbara Shreeve said, "Our leadership here in the county is sitting on a surplus of money ... I guess the state expects them to tap into it."

"I don’t want them to raise taxes, but when the state looks at us and we have relative wealth here and the commissioners are cutting taxes and sitting on a surplus of money ... I don’t understand it," Shreeve said.

Board member Jim Doolan said that county leadership is going to have to accept that money has to be spent on education.

"This board [of Education] doesn’t have funding authority, we have to go to county government to say 'it’s up to you to provide quality education to our kids and citizens'," Doolan said.

"With two tax cuts and a proposed third one, the county has reduced its own revenue sources at a time when needs are going up," Doolan said. "I urge them to accept the fact that we have an excellent school system and the only way it’s going to stay and not affect kids is that the money has to at least meet the needs."

Following the budget presentation, Commissioner Doug Howard said that "we don't have another big pocket to say that we can offset this with something else."

"More demands from the state and less money from the state is the problem--the problem is in Annapolis," Howard said. "That’s where a lot of this discussion needs to be happening."

Look at Guthrie's proposed budget in this Powerpoint presentation on the CCPS website.

Public hearings are scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. at the Board of Education offices and Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. at South Carroll High School. The Board of Education will adopt a preliminary budget on Wednesday, Feb. 27, at its 1 p.m. meeting and the Board of Education's final operating budget will be approved in May.

Cindy January 11, 2013 at 04:37 PM
Seriously? I would venture to say that the overwhelming majority of families in Carroll County are quite pleased with the educational system here. That's why many of us came to Carroll, and that's why many of us have stayed. Our state is currently #1 in the country as far as public education goes, and our county is one of the top counties in the state. We have many schools that have been awarded not only Blue Ribbon status at the state level, but on the National level as well. Doesn't that show we are doing what is right for our kids? I DO NOT support a government that's only focus is to reduce spending. Serious mistakes are made that way. I DO support a government that spends money responsibly. Tear apart our schools and erode our programs and the ramifications will be far reaching for all of us. What we already have here in Carroll needs to be supported.
Joe Smith January 11, 2013 at 04:46 PM
With a $330M budget, guthrie is complaining about a few line items costing a couple million dollars each? Seriously? It looks like there needs to be someone in this position who can prioritize spending obligations. There are many mothers in Carroll County who have experience doing this, and would be well-qualified for the job. And, the threat of laying off low-ranking workers is really old. How about getting rid of some of the layers of administrators within the school system. They get high salaries, but I don't know that many students ever met them, nonetheless learn a single useful educational fact from them. What is he eliminating, PERSONALLY (like trips, junkets, secretaries, "training", etc.) to help offset some of the so-called fiscal Next it'll be eliminating sports activities, music classes, consolidating bus routes, blah, blah, blah. But, I'm sure if asked, he would answer that all of those things are vital for him to do his job. Of course. Typical of school districts - too much (money) will never be enough. If a third of a billion dollars is not enough to run a school system, then the leadership is simply incompetent and people who really know how to handle money, bargain with vendors and unions, and can innovate to create savings need to be installed and replace the incompetents who currently occupy these positions.
Joe Smith January 11, 2013 at 05:02 PM
>Cindy - You're absolutely right about the schools being well respected. But, please answer this - at what point will this become unaffordable? Everyone wants the best of everything, but economics eventually catch up with reality. I'd liek to own a top of the line automobile, but my finances preclude me from being able to purchase one. Same thing here. At some point, all of the new facilities, latest technology, unending training of teachers, student activities and programs will simply cost too much to be sustainable. Again, the constant montra is "we neeeeeed more money", akin to a seven year-old saying that he neeeeeeds a new toy. Where is the prioritization of current funding? No mention of that, because it requires actual budgeting skill and is harder than just coming out with an open hand. What activities can have their funding cut due to non-use? What areas can have their budget reduced due to underutilization? Does every single facility upgrade absolutely have to be done, and are all the "support activities" absolutely required, or is spending done so as to ensure funds are expended to ensure that line-item levels are maintained in subsequent budgets? No, the argument "our schools are great, and we need to pay for them" just isn't acceptable as a well-thought out response. That ranks up with the intellectually lazy reasoning to countering many things that "we need to do it for the children".
Cindy January 12, 2013 at 02:54 AM
Joe, as I stated, I support responsible spending. That doesn't necessarily mean spending more money, although sometimes that may be the case. On-going teacher and support staff training are a necessity as we implement state and federal mandated curriculum changes.Teachers must be able to remain current to prepare our students for their futures, and ours. What is required in our county is largely dictated by the federal and state governments. For example, in order to comply with the new testing to go along with the Common Core Curriculum, all students will have to be able to test via computers. Guess what? Many of our computers will not be able to be used for this purpose, yet we're required by law to comply. Is purchasing the necessary equipment in order to comply irresponsible spending? We have no choice. Our schools are subject to the same budgetary issues you and I are as individuals. Less money, higher costs for heat, fuel, electric, etc. Please go back and look at the cuts that have occurred in the last 3 or 4 years. I have. You talk about administration's reluctance to give up secretaries, junkets, etc. If you go back and look at the budgets for the last few years, you will see that many of those were the first to go. I would also suggest you look at money spent per student in other counties. Carroll already does a lot more with a lot less.
Joe Smith January 12, 2013 at 03:57 AM
>JoAnn, I wasn't wanting to wade into the topic of vouchers. But, since you're asking, I think that they would be possibly the best thing to happen to the public education system. I agree entirely with your contention that competition would improve things, incredibly. The biggest issue I have is that it will take time to implement such an arrangement. Whereas, streamlining the budget and cutting out excesses are things that can be done immediately - if only the administrators worked towards that goal, and no their own selfish needs, whims, and desires.
Cindy January 12, 2013 at 02:51 PM
Thank you JoAnn. I too have many concerns with Common Core. I would much rather see more local control and input into our curriculum. However, that's a discussion for another day. My concern with taking away funding from our current system will leave us weakened. I don't think CCPS should be given a blank check. I would just like to see that we are able to stay at a level of funding that will not take anything else away from our students.

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