Expenditures-web

Superintendent Terry Alban wants to boost the Frederick County Public Schools budget for next year by roughly $24 million over the current fiscal year — to a total $568 million — though early revenue projections indicate this will be difficult.

The superintendent unveiled the first draft of her fiscal 2017 operating budget Wednesday night at West Frederick Middle School. This budget must still be vetted and approved by the school board, and school officials must wait and see how much funding the county and state will commit.

Alban’s recommended budget of $568 million reflects the optimal needs of the school district, which for years has been deprived of proper funding, Alban said, having been financed by only the minimum funding amount required by law, known as “maintenance of effort.”

But the school system estimates that it will pull in only $544 million or so in combined revenue from the county and state, leading to a $24 million shortfall.

This estimate isn’t precise, though, as Alban pegged the county’s portion of the funding at $247 million — the amount required by maintenance of effort. And County Executive Jan Gardner has already pledged additional funding to the school district beyond he $247 million.

The county payout to the school system last year was $250 million, but a slight downturn in enrollment in the public schools reduced the dollar amount required for the maintenance-of-effort level.

In a phone interview, Gardner said at this early stage of the budget process, she estimates that she needs $6 million over the maintenance-of-effort level to the school system, though she stressed that the number was not final.

The state’s assumed fiscal contribution of $268 million likely won’t change much, Alban said, as much of that is mandated by a formula.

Last year, schools across the county could have also received additional state money under the Geographic Cost of Education Index. GCEI is shorthand for funding that the governor has discretion to provide to those jurisdictions where the cost of education is higher. Frederick is among those counties.

The General Assembly had worked to fence off this funding from the governor’s intervention, but Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, elected in 2014, chose to withhold part of the GCEI funding. As a result, Frederick County lost out on more than $3 million for the current academic year. GCEI funding is now mandated through legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2015, should Hogan choose not to release the funding this fiscal year, an unlikely scenario.

Considering the state’s share and Gardner’s tentative funding commitment, the Frederick County Board of Education will likely need to make cuts in Alban’s proposed budget.

“It’s not going to be a pretty budget year,” Board of Education President Brad Young said in a phone interview.

In her remarks, Alban said maintenance of effort doesn’t account for inflation or new mandates that the school district must comply with, resulting in painful choices highlighted last budget cycle with the Board of Education upping class size by one student across the board. This changed the formula for how teachers are distributed to schools.

A total of 80 teaching positions were eliminated as part of that move, as well as one extra position cut because of the enrollment decrease.

Alban has budgeted for the return of a “quarter of a student,” which would mean nearly 20 new teaching positions. This would cost $1.3 million. Restoring classes to their original size would cost nearly $5 million, Alban said in her presentation.

She has also allocated funding to revive some of the programs that were lost in the school board cuts last budget cycle, such as trims to summer school. Alban added $204,000 annually for more summer school programs for 2016-17.

More than half of the $24 million in additional funding Alban included in her budget would be funneled to the salary resource pool, the pot of money from which the school district draws to pay teachers and negotiate with the unions.

Alban has budgeted $13.8 million into the salary resource pool for fiscal 2017, with the hope that the school district could negotiate with the union representatives a new salary scale that would remedy low starting salaries for beginning teachers here compared with other counties.

Many people in the school district have pointed to the district’s failure to provide scheduled annual raises for teachers and a middling starting salary as reasons for teachers leaving for other jurisdictions that pay more.

Salaries for support staff such as mechanics, bus drivers and instructional aides also need to be more competitive, Alban said.

“Our students deserve the very best people in these positions, just as they deserve the very best in our classrooms,” Alban said.

Melissa Dirks, president of the teachers union, the Frederick County Teachers Association, said she appreciated the concept of a new salary scale. A task force was formed four years ago to investigate transitioning to a new salary scale, but Dirks said funding the schools at the minimum maintenance-of-effort level skewered any chance of that coming to fruition.

Dirks said that Alban’s proposed budget was on track for where the school system needed to be.

“It’s been a ‘Race to the Bottom’ for Frederick County,” Dirks said, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the federal education program known as “Race to the Top.”

A new salary scale is not yet available, said school system spokesman Michael Doerrer, as details are still being worked out.

Young said his hope would be that this new salary scale would likely make funding a step increase for teachers on the scale more realistic. Roughly $10 million more is currently required to fund a step increase, Young said.

Young said he has little to criticize in this year’s budget, though he was disappointed that the addition to a pension trust fund, known as Other Post Employee Benefits, wasn’t higher than the budgeted $1 million.

He called this year’s contribution to OPEB woefully insufficient. OPEB is intended to cover retiree costs when the price of health care reaches heights that the operating budget can’t cover.

Young said he hopes that the lingering effects of the class size increase and other cuts will spur the public to advocate more at the local and state level for school funding. The school board has not developed an action plan on this front yet, Young said, as members had not seen the budget.

The school board will sponsor a public hearing to collect feedback on the operating budget at 7 p.m. on Feb. 3 at Oakdale High School.

Follow Jeremy Bauer-Wolf on Twitter: @jbeowulf.

(31) comments

jsklinelga

The school budget seems to be presented in a generalized form. I would be very interested in the total amount of money paid out for the subsidized portion of health insurance by the FCPS. ( The actual cost for each employee minus their contributions) This figure would include all expenditures for current employees and retirees. I assume Dr. Alban would know this figure.

des21

How can we be spending 0.00% on food? What are my kids having for lunch! Road kill?

glenkrc

Perhaps Federal and State funds cover much of the expense and food sales account for virtually all of the remainder

DickD

As you say, it is most likely right.

DickD

Have you looked at the school lunch menu? I have and it is pretty good and very cheap. It would cost you that amount of money that they charge to fix it at home. And much food is wasted as it is not all eaten.

Nicki

School lunches are a self-sustaining fund. Money comes from sales and federal reimbursements.

des21

And from me! I think I've paid about 250 so far this year for school lunches. It just seems odd to list a budget item as zero.

glenkrc

des - it's not zero, it's just not big enough to round up to .01%. It would have been better (though perhaps just as incomprehensible to the readers) to say "

glenkrc

That's funny - it burped on the "less than" sign I put after the quotation mark. Should read "less than 0.01%" or (let me try again) "

glenkrc

It happened again - I suppose it reads it as the beginning of an html tag.

des21

I'm sorry Nicki, I overlooked where you wrote "sales".

HappySeller2014

To assist in this discussion, see the proposed 2017 budget at http://www.fcps.org/about/FY2017-Budget.cfm.

Just like in previous years, it appears to be just growth at the topline without detailed review of potential cuts to line items. The "Changes in Expenditures" portion of budget mostly lists increases in $X,000, which means no exact knowledge, just guesses.

Some of you on this thread gave me grief last year when I spoke about lowered fuel costs. Well, my repeated predictions over the past twelve months have indeed come true. I have been paying $1.89 a gallon for gas lately and well under $2.50 a gallon for gas for most of 2015. I expect it to continue to remain low for a long time.

So, let's look at the "09 Transportation" line item cost. For proposed 2017, it is $22,483,353, an increase of 6.8% over the 2016 approved amount of $21,056,241. The proposed budget does state a line item increased cost of $501,612 for " three replacement buses and a "price increase" for 27 buses." So, this directly accounts for approximately a third of the $1.44 M increase for this line item. What is the additional $944K needed for? There is no inflation. Fuel prices, a major component of this line item, have dropped tremendously. If anything, this line item should be decreasing by millions of $s, thus freeing up millions of $s for other priorities or a "rainy day fund." This is a common professional accounting and budgeting practice used in the real world, when trade-offs must be made to fund priorities. Not only can you do a lot with $944K, but also since you have expected cost-avoidance in the millions of $s for this line item over previous years, you have a lot of funds here to re-program.

Examples of this type of back-of-the napkin simple trade-off analysis can be found throughout this proposed 2017 budget, just like in past years. But no executives at FCPS seem to be willing to look at the line-item level costs and benefits; rather, they just keep on adding to the top line.

I love FCPS teachers and I have two young daughters in a FCPS
elementary school. They do not go to school in trailers but they have no solid walls between classrooms in their elementary school. This is 2016 folks, not the 1950s. But FCPS executives have a brand new executive office building in downtown Frederick with currently unused square footage we Frederick County taxpayers are paying debt service on for many years to come. When I hear "priorities" and FCPS mentioned in the same sentence, I scoff. This type of reckless, unjustified and simply sophomoric approach to budgeting does not serve the taxpayers and children of Frederick County, MD very well. Simply sad.

DickD

Boone Pickens says oil will be back up to $75 a barrel, by the end of 2016. Do you budget for that or what you are paying currently? If you budget for that, you are likely to be short.

DickD

Those new offices downtown were approved by the Blaine gang and built long before Jan became CE.

HappySeller2014

Look back at the 2013, 2014 and 2015 FCPS budget submissions. I have. All contain substantial increases in transportation costs year-over-year. But gasoline prices have had a big drop in last 18 months. Natural gas prices have been in the tank for many years now. Coal prices for generating electricity at decades-low levels. No inflation anywhere. But transportation budgeted prices continue to go up and up in the yearly proposed budgets many multiples of the inflation rate, which is non-existant? What give here? Are all the buses that FCPS have that normally get seven miles to the gallon all of the sudden magically only getting just three?

As for the new offices downtown, you can blame whoever you want. Republicans or Democrats. Pro-developers or pro-farmers. Old retirees or families with three or more children. US citizens or foreign immigrants. Dog lovers or cat lovers. Morning lovers or late night partiers. I simply do not care. What I do care about is, at the time that building was approved, some schools in Frederick County were without solid walls between classrooms and portables were already everywhere. But, FCPS built a new administrative building downtown that currently has lots of unused square footage in existence today and us Frederick County citizens are shouldering the debt load for a couple more decades. Priorities simply out of whack.

Nicki

I haven't been inside the new office building but I've heard from employees that it is very crowded.

EZ2CY

Let me piggy back on your concern over how FCPS Spends tax dollars. Heather Ridge School has 8 portables on sight, yet they have reduced enrollment by over 50% in the past 8 years! A few of the portables sit empty! They have less than 50 students in their day program with a budget of over 4 million! Therefore over $100,000. per student!! That is unheard of even for the most elite prep schools in the country!!! Billy Shreve questioned this years ago and was almost laughed at! So while they cut sports and overload classrooms and complain how they love kids I say,"Give me a break and take a math class on budgeting!""

jerseygrl42

a few comments here; number 1, there is NO inflation which is why SS and fed. pension folks are getting NO increases this year so why is Alban even bringing that into the conversation???, # 2 , this reporter while making sure the readers know that a republican Gov disallowed some of the GCEI money but he fails to mention the reason...that being that democrat gov omalley left Hogan with a 3/4 Billion debt that Hogan rightfully stated needed to be paid off( How about telling the whole story Jeremy) and GCEI is a self-fulfilling joke whereby the more $$$ designated the more $$$ will be designated the following year and so on. and # 3 , just over 1/3rd of the budget is slotted for the instructors which seems to indicate at first blush that the dept. is top-heavy with mid and upper level management, notwithstanding the fact that when benefits are plugged in ( $160 Million which is applied one assumes to both instructors and "other" school personnel) the total now approaches 2/3 of the budget....finally , one wonders where the cost of all those trailers our students are forced to learn in (thanks to over-development by the likes of nateli , matan and others and brought to us by the so-called county planners) resides in this piechart.,... More work needs to be done on this issue for sure particularly in the area of "special ed." whatever that is which consumes almost 11% of the total w/o the benefits piece factored in

DickD

The latest inflation rate for the United States is 0.5% through the 12 months ended November 2015 as published by the US government on December 15, 2015. Since 2007 the inflation amount has been 14.5 %.

HappySeller2014

So, a very simple question arises. With a very recent trailing 12 month inflation rate of 0.5% and all things remaining equal (a valid assumption), why a 4.4% increase in requested funding over the 2016 approved FCPS baseline budget? Why a 3%+ increase in requested funding in last year's 2015 request with no inflation present? Why a continuously requested substantial increase in funding from the previous baseline year each year for the past four or five FCPS budget cycles? Have retirees been getting COLAs at that level? Have most Frederick County federal and private-sector employees been seeing raises that large? Has you bank savings account been paying that percentage in monthly interest to you? How about your bond investments?

DickD

You also fail to say the legislative body did not give the governor more money to hoard or what he is doing with it and right after failing to bail out the schools he recommended spending 10 billion on a fast train between Baltimore and D.C. so his friends could save 15 minutes a trip.

elymus43

NO WAY. It seems there is no end to the increases. It looks like sports is number one.

jsklinelga

"deprived of proper funding" In 2008, 2009 and 2010 when the majority of this country was in a deep recession. people lost jobs. Retirement accounts were decimated. Personal equity was slashed. Did any teachers lose their jobs? Was their retirement slashed? Was their pay cut?
Many friends and neighbors are working within the FCPS. We wish no harm but this old argument is becoming tiresome. With this budget cycle the arguments will be the same. The primary focus will be salaries and benefits. Education has always been secondary.

timothygaydos

Good luck when the normal contributors come out today and comment against your post. They will most likely side with the union and how teachers have been neglected with pay and pension... and yet we continue to fund others who should not be in the school system because of performance issues and not to mention those who are illegal and tapping our resources. It will come down to how much are these politicians willing to gamble especially come their re-election time?

bosco

How many of our tax dollars are spent educating and feeding non-citizens?

timothygaydos

Are you asking? Illegals are being educated, getting healthcare, and other benefits that cost taxpayers ample $$$ in the annual budgets that are established and expended. What is the actual $$$ amount well how many illegals do we really have here in the country, the state, and the county? I am sure the government (Federal) has a very good idea and is quite certain not to let that number out to the public. Imagine what the student to teacher ratio would be if illegals were removed? Imagine what health costs could be if we were not paying for the uninsured that still show up at clinics and hospitals for care? Think about how much $$$ is spent housing and providing services for these folks when we cannot even care for our veterans...

jerseygrl42

GAO report for 2011, the most recent, states the cost to the citizen taxpayers for 12 million illegals is $260 Billion annually and some portion of those 12 Million committed 3 Million crimes in that year....and this useless administration will not finish the border fence " because the cost will approach $10 Billion or about 4% of the cost of caring for these illegals...and to add insult to injury , ob released 36,000 illegals who were also convicted felons , back onto the streets of America so they could commit further mayhem....

jerseygrl42

too many for sure but that is not the fault of the county ....it is however the fault of this JV president

DickD

I did a percentage when we discussed this about two months ago and I estimated a little over 1,000, based on our student enrollment. What it actually is no one seems to know.

DickD

Was your pay cut during Bush's Great Recession? If not, quit your complaining.

jsklinelga

DickD I am not sure but you must work for the Government or a large corporation. . Many people lost their jobs, lost their savings and suffered greatly. Personally my work evaporated. No one was spending money I cannot believe that anybody could make such a statement.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, insights and experiences, not personal attacks. Ad hominen criticisms are not allowed. Focus on ideas instead.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
No trolls. Off-topic comments and comments that bait others are not allowed.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
Say it once. No repeat or repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.