The fiscal 2022 budget for Frederick County Public Schools is $26 million more than the fiscal 2021 spending plan despite a drop in student enrollment this year and uncertainties on how that could affect funding from both the county and state.
Superintendent Terry Alban on Monday announced her recommended budget, which totals more than $701 million.
“The FY22 budget was built to move our system forward. It was designed to enable us to recover, reconnect and reinvent. Recovery is the first step coming out of a crisis,” Alban said during a broadcast statement. “We know the toll this pandemic is taking on our students academically, socially and emotionally. We must be prepared with the support needed to address all of their needs.”
The superintendent’s recommended budget includes $6.5 million specifically to address academic recovery and support mental health.
According to the published budget, the money will go toward the creation of specific positions, including math specialists at the high school level, digital learning lab monitors, school psychologists and trauma specialty therapists.
The budget also states that FCPS is seeking funding to expand the Frederick County Virtual School summer session and the RISE program to middle schools—which was previously cut from the fiscal 2021 budget.
The superintendent also included $3.8 million to create replacement cycles for computer software and hardware for both students and staff as well as textbooks and the school system’s bus fleet.
The superintendent’s recommended budget is among the first steps in a budget process that lasts until the end of June. While FCPS has consistently ranked as one of the least-funded school systems in the state, this year it faces the added challenge of decreased enrollment.
The amount of revenue FCPS receives from both the state and county are based on actual and projected enrollment. The actual enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year, based on a Sept. 30 count, was 211 students less than last school year.
Due to this decrease in enrollment, the county’s legally required Maintenance of Effort Funding could decrease. The state revenue figure is expected to be determined in the coming weeks once the governor releases his budget and the county has expressed its commitment to maintaining at least fiscal 2021 Maintenance of Effort Funding.
A decrease in funding for this fiscal year could prove detrimental to the school system, which is predicting a large enrollment spike for the 2021-2022 school year. FCPS is anticipating students to re-enroll in FCPS after attending private schools or participating in homeschooling during the pandemic. According to the most recent FCPS projections, there will be an additional 584 students next school year, which equates to the need for approximately 74 additional staff positions at a cost of $5.5 million.
Alban encouraged those watching Monday to advocate for more funding.
“Your advocacy and engagement are critically important ... it will be very important that our county government officials hear that education is a priority and why you support the budget request,” she said.
Alban and FCPS staff will present the recommended budget to the Frederick County Board of Education on Wednesday during its scheduled meeting. The board will host a public hearing on the fiscal 2022 budget on Feb. 3.