Ellicott City, Maryland — Superintendent Michael J. Martirano presented his proposed budget for the Howard County Public School System fiscal year 2019–2020 (FY 2020) during a presentation to the Board of Education on Tuesday, December 18.
"Over the last 19 months, we have moved the system from a state of chaos, through a process of re-stabilization, to the point where we can now articulate our true needs," said Martirano. "This proposal serves as a roadmap that links the objectives and strategies laid out in our Strategic Call to Action to the investments and actions that will bring our strategic vision to life in our schools and for students."
The budget proposal–Martirano’s first since becoming permanent Superintendent–totals $998.4 million and represents an increase of $136.1 million, or 15.8 percent, over the FY 2019 budget. Of the total, $722.9 million is requested from the County, an increase of $122.9 million that includes $10.8 million for Maintenance of Effort, $95.3 million to invest in educators and students, $7.9 million for programs that support the community, and a one-time request of $27.0 million to eliminate the Health Fund deficit.
"This budget represents a significant financial commitment, but the stark reality is a growing gap between Maintenance of Effort funding, and a level of funding that is realistic to provide the instructional quality and supports that our children need and our community expects," Martirano stated.
He noted progress in addressing a structural deficit in the employee Health Fund, which accumulated over several years and had been projected to reach $50.5 million during the 2017-2018 school year. The school system fully funded the Health Fund for the current fiscal year for the first time in several years, and through ongoing measures to contain expenses and improve efficiencies, has reduced the outstanding deficit by $13 million to a $37 million balance. Recently, additional savings were identified that will allow a further reduction to $27 million in FY 2020.
The budget provides for new positions and educational supplies to support the expected enrollment growth of approximately 850 students. Howard County is among Maryland’s fastest-growing counties, and HCPSS expects that significant annual enrollment growth will continue for the next several years.
The proposal also targets investments to fulfill the goals and objectives of the school system’s Strategic Call to Action: Learning and Leading with Equity, with funding for additional staffing and services to meet the needs of some of the system’s most vulnerable students. New positions allocated for special education will provide for enrollment growth and increased numbers of students identified as needing special education services or those who are served in home or community settings. Additional positions are allocated to align special education staffing levels to current formulas and provide for more intensive student needs. "HCPSS is committed to providing the best possible education to students receiving special education services, and this budget reflects our full commitment," Martirano noted.
Funding is also allocated to improve services and supports for students challenged by mental health and social-behavioral issues and those affected by poverty, language barriers and other factors that can interfere with learning and well-being. "We must break down the barriers that stand in the way of achievement," said Martirano. "By targeting our efforts on meeting the needs of the underserved, we will find that achievement levels will take care of themselves."
Other priorities identified in the proposal relate to the system’s focus on building a culture that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion, with new positions to support the use of restorative practices and to address discipline disproportionality.
The budget also provides funding to expand innovative career preparation pathways such as dual enrollment, career academy, and pre-apprenticeships programs; upgrading technologies in classrooms, schools and offices; replacing or upgrading essential building services and grounds equipment, and restoring funds for long-deferred maintenance projects. "We cannot afford to postpone these investments further without seriously compromising student and staff well-being and the quality of our learning environments," Martirano stated.
The complete budget proposal, Martirano’s budget presentation and additional information are available online at www.hcpss.org/budgets.
The Board will hold public hearings on the proposed budget at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 15 and Tuesday, January 29. Work sessions will be held on January 17, 22, 29 and 31, all scheduled to begin 1 p.m.
The Board is scheduled to adopt its budget request on Tuesday, February 12 at 3 p.m., and to approve the final FY 2020 Operating and Capital Budgets and FY 2021–2025 Capital Improvement Program on Thursday, May 30 at 9 a.m. All hearings, work sessions and meetings will be held at the Department of Education, 10910 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City.