The Frederick County School Board on Thursday night approved potential cuts to the fiscal year 2023 operating budget.
The cuts would be made if the school division did not receive all requested funding from the county government.
The Frederick County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on how much funding to provide to the school division’s operating budget Wednesday night after a 3-3 deadlock on the issue last week.
Supervisors Judith McCann-Slaughter, Bob Wells and Charles DeHaven Jr. voted in favor of Scenario A, which fully funds the division’s $219.58 million operating budget request. The plan seeks $97.5 million in county funding, an increase of about $4.6 million in local taxes over the current fiscal year. State and federal funds make up the balance.
Supervisors Doug McCarthy, Blaine Dunn and Josh Ludwig backed Scenario C, with the county providing approximately $95.4 million – an approximately $2.5 million increase in county taxes over the current fiscal year , but about $2.1 million less than the division requested. Supervisor Shawn Graber did not attend last week’s meeting.
On Thursday evening, Brian Hester, a school board member and chair of the finance committee, recommended the following cuts if Scenario C is approved by supervisors:
- $225,000 for three new Career and Technical Education (CTE) teaching positions ($75,000 each)
- $1.17 million for a new pay scale for special education teachers ($6,000 base salary increase)
- $131,000 for a new salary scale for speech-language pathologists ($6,000 base salary increase).
- $469,724 for a new pay scale for special education teacher assistants ($3,000 base salary increase)
- $37,577 for a new pay scale for behavioral specialists ($6,000 base salary increase)
- $2,545 for a new pay scale for behavioral teaching assistants ($1,000 base salary increase)
- $82,500 to add a salary supplement to graduate teaching assistants
- $25,000 to expand the Frederick County Public Schools Graduate Incentive
The plan maintains a 5% salary increase for teachers and increases a salary increase for administrators from 3% to 5%. In March, the school board voted 4 to 3 to raise the administration salary by 3% instead of 5% to fund three CTE positions.
Hester said the division’s finance department needs to “get the ball rolling” on teacher contracts for the upcoming school year. He believes it is important that the board now gives direction on the budget cuts so that the ministry can take action if Scenario C is approved on Wednesday.
But council chairman Brandon Monk and council member Miles Adkins expressed concern about voting on possible budget cuts before supervisors vote on school funding.
“Can we put this off for later? That way we know exactly what we have to work with,” Adkins said.
FCPS Superintendent David Sovine and Finance Director Patty Camery said they want to know the direction the school board wants the department to take, so they can work on contracts and post jobs. “We are currently behind in preparing our contracts,” Sovine said.
Monk made a motion to amend Hester’s proposal. In the event that Scenario C is approved, Monk would prefer to reduce administrative salary increases from 5% to 4.5% and instead use the money to fund at least one CTE Liaison position.
While most board members said they supported the expansion of the CTE program, several said they thought the administrative salary increases were more significant. FCPS has 112 administrative positions, excluding Sovine.
“I fully support the expansion of the CTE program; I think it will be beneficial for our students,” said board member Ellen White. “However, our administrators, our directors, throughout the district have worked tirelessly for the past two years. In recent months, there has been overwhelming uncertainty for our teachers and administrators. And that’s not fair. I have been in schools. I’ve visited these managers, and they deserve every penny of that percentage increase, and I can’t argue with that.
Hester, White and Adkins, along with council members Bradley Comstock and Michael Lake, opposed Monk’s motion. Linda Martin seconded it.
In the end, Hester, White, Lake, and Comstock voted in favor of Hester’s recommended budget cuts, while Monk, Adkins, and Martin voted against.
“It’s a no-win situation, if we get option C, because the items in our budget, I think, are all extremely necessary,” Comstock said.
Hester said it “kills” having to make decisions about what to cut and said, “We wouldn’t be put in this position if supervisors funded our needs-based budget entirely.” White said she was “confident” the school budget was “fair and fiscally responsible” and hoped supervisors would “fully fund our schools.”
Martin said she doesn’t believe the board of supervisors want to cut teachers or programs. However, she said: ‘They asked for something’ and encouraged the council to ‘just give it to them’. Martin was referring to several supervisors asking for a very detailed budget by position.
“They’ll give you all the money,” Martin said. “They’re not interested in trying to hurt people. Just give them what they want. Just find out exactly what they want, give it to them, and I’m sure they’ll be fine.
Also at the meeting, the board unanimously requested that Sovine review the budget for fiscal year 22 to see if there are any excess funds to give a bonus to all school employees for the fiscal year. In progress. Hester came up with the idea of the bonus to boost teacher morale.
“I’m excited to see if we can find that extra funding to, you know, give that incentive to our teachers,” Adkins said. “You know, I think we have a plethora of great teachers here, and I’d love to keep those teachers around.”