After participating in an all-day budget work session last week, the Frederick County Board of Education will meet Wednesday night to have a second discussion of the superintendent’s proposed budget for fiscal 2021.

The current funding plan asks for $683 million to fund priorities such as more mental health services for students and a reduction in class size for kindergarten through eighth grade.

Board member Karen Yoho said in an email she has no current changes to propose but also said that could change.

“The public hearing could definitely get me thinking about whether we budgeted in ways in which they are supportive or not,” Yoho said.

The public hearing on the budget is scheduled to take place Feb. 5.

Board Vice President Jay Mason also said he has no changes at this time but, depending on how much the county executive decides to give, may ask for a coordinator to help expand the Youth Apprentice Program, which provides opportunities for students to gain experience in the industry they plan to continue in after graduation.

Overall, however, the priorities for most members of the board seem to be those that have already been laid out — more mental health positions and a reduction in class size.

Superintendent Terry Alban and staff “listened to our priorities when preparing the budget, especially in regards to getting more personnel into the schools. As I left teaching in 2018, that was the greatest need I saw,” Yoho said. “The schools are constantly scrambling to pull enough staff to cover the necessities like lunch duty.”

There is currently a $27 million gap, however, between expenditures and revenue. How much funding the school system will receive from both the county and the state has yet to be determined. If the $27 million is not fully covered, some cuts may need to be made in other areas to preserve those priorities.

Board President Brad Young told The News-Post last week that he knows they will not be funded enough to close the gap.

“I’m under no false illusion that [the county] will be able to fund the entire amount, but we feel it’s important that we ask for what’s necessary for our school system,” Young said. “There are a number of things that we also would have liked that we didn’t include in there.”

Yoho said at the moment the gap doesn’t bother her as it isn’t something new.

“Last year we had a large gap when we adopted the superintendent’s budget as the board’s budget and sent it to the county,” Yoho said. “I was happily stunned to see that, after all was said and done, the budget came back balanced.”

But she realizes that some hard work may be coming down the line.

“If the money can’t be found to make up the difference, then we roll up our sleeves and start the hard work of cutting,” Yoho said. “Our BoE members are a well-balanced group, and we’ll work together to do what has to be done in regards to arriving at a balanced budget, even if a few tears are shed in the process.”

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill.

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