Several options were presented to the Frederick County school board Wednesday that would eliminate the $15 million gap that still exists for the upcoming budget.
After receiving only $7 million above maintenance of effort, instead of the requested $28 million from the county, FCPS staff and the board have been tasked with prioritizing immediate needs over long-term wants in order to present a balanced book. Superintendent Terry Alban introduced a $683 million budget in January.
There are 68 suggestions by FCPS staff to help close the budgetary gap, including a reduction in special education and English language teachers that were going to be hired for the new school year and the removal of the request to fund a reduction in class size in kindergarten through eighth-grade schools.
Other recommendations include not hiring lunchroom monitors for elementary and middle schools and delaying the implementation of the RISE program in middle schools. The RISE program, which stands for Responsive Interventions for Student Excellence, assists students with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities.
“I hope that the board and the public does not think this was an easy exercise at all ... This took weeks and weeks and many iterations to get to this point and none of them were easy,” FCPS Chief Financial Officer Leslie Pellegrino told the board. “Unfortunately, due to the financial situation, we had to put together something to help you as you embark on trying to balance this budget.”
How much funding the school system will receive from the state is still uncertain and Pellegrino said FCPS has been advised to proceed with the estimated number they received from the state in January.
The school system is also planning to submit an application to receive funding from the CARES Act, known as the federal government’s coronavirus relief fund, which has a specific section devoted to elementary and secondary schools.
If approved, FCPS is expected to receive about $4 million. Pellegrino said those funds would be used to help with recovery from COVID-19.
“There could be things like additional supplemental hours for our teachers if we need to provide tutoring or summer support for our students who have fallen behind,” Pellegrino said. “There’s also potential for using that money for cleaning supplies or any type of medical supplies we may have to purchase for the fall.”
Pellegrino also informed board members that the county executive has proposed an additional $2 million in “tech funding” to help with the replacement of student Chromebooks, many of which will have to either be refreshed or replaced after students finish using them for distance learning at the end of this academic year.
The County Council will vote next week on the additional funding as well as the current proposed FCPS budget.
The budget will then return to the Board of Education which will discuss and finalize any amendments to the budget at its next meeting on May 27.
The school board was scheduled to vote and approve the final version of the budget at its June 10 meeting, however FCPS staff has requested the board delay that vote until its second meeting in June due to the uncertainty on funding from the state.
Once the budget is approved, funding will begin to be distributed on July 1.