The Board of Education recently passed its fiscal year 2016 budget proposal channeling funding increases to employee salaries, the addition of a senior class at St. Charles High School and new instructional programs.
The Board voted earlier this month to approve an operating budget request of $353.6 million, an 8 percent or $26.3 million increase over FY 2015. The budget proposes a $25.6 million or 15.8 percent increase from the county and anticipates reductions to the state’s Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI) as proposed in Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s budget.
The top recommendation, according to Superintendent Kimberly Hill, is for staff compensation to make whole school employees who are currently two STEPS/levels behind and who have not received a cost of living increase since 2009. The bulk of the $26 million increase is earmarked for employee negotiations, with the $19 million employee compensation request providing $13.2 million for three STEP/level increases and $6 million for rising health care costs. Employees did not receive a salary increase last year. Hill told the Board the Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) starting teacher salary is the lowest in Southern Maryland.
Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Business Paul Balides said the budget covers the mandatory expenses of the school system and advances several new instructional initiatives. “We realize this request is ambitious, but we feel it articulates the needs of the system and continues to provide high quality education for children,” Balides said during a budget presentation.
The budget proposal was created knowing that Maryland continues to experience a budget shortfall, and there is no negotiation in regard to state funding. Whatever the school system does not receive from the state becomes a burden for the Charles County Commissioners to address, Balides said.
Other new costs
Phase II of the opening costs of St. Charles High School includes funding for the addition of a senior class. St. Charles opened this year with grades 9 through 11, and the Board is requesting $1.6 million to provide for 24 new staff positions and 392 more students. St. Charles enrollment is expected to reach 1,370 next school year.
Balides said the school system has done a lot to control health care expenses, but CCPS still experienced a larger than normal increase in claims this year.
The school system is also seeing an increase in the number of people enrolling in its plan. “We are not alone in this. Other school systems are facing the same thing,” Balides said.
The school system must replace 17 aging buses at an estimated cost of $780,000.
Instructional initiatives include permanent funding for Project Lead the Way, creation of a Positive Alternative to School Suspension (PASS) program and nine additional computer analyst positions. PASS is designed to help high schools meet the new discipline criteria outlined by the Maryland State Department of Education. Additional computer analysts are requested to provide support for PARCC testing and instruction at the elementary and middle school levels.
The operating cost per pupil requested in FY16 is $12,774, an increase of $321. Balides said 96 percent of the budget is school based and provides direct classroom support. The county government public hearing is set for April 22.
Details about the FY 2016 operating budget are available online at http://www.ccboe.com/aboutus/boe/budget.php.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,500 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.