County Schools Need To Cut $1.8M

NEWARK – County schools face $1.8 million in reductions in next year’s budget, with $1.2 million of the overage representing higher fixed costs such as fuel, insurance and energy.

The Worcester County Board of Education received the fiscal year 2011 schools budget Tuesday afternoon knowing that reductions must still be made to meet a Maintenance of Effort (MoE) budget.

The county funded the schools at the MOE level last year. The state of Maryland requires counties to fund school systems at the same amount per pupil as in the previous year’s budget. MOE budgets do not take rising operational costs into account.

The county has asked the school board for its budget 30 days earlier than usual to allow the County Commissioners more time to make budget decisions.

A large number of pre-kindergarten students, 385, complicates the school budget, since MoE only covers students from kindergarten through grade 12.

While overall enrollment from pre-K to 12 is constant at 6.700 students, the number of kindergarten to 12th grade students factored into the MoE requirements means a reduction of $615,000 in the mandated county budget allocation. That will have to be made up through cuts, school board staff said.

There is less certainty over state education funding.

“At this time we have not received state estimates for state aid,” said Chief Financial Officer Vince Tolbert.

Operational costs like insurance, fuel, and energy are projected to come in higher than in the previous fiscal year.

The budget as presented shows cuts in numerous departments, from $470,000 less for textbooks and materials of instruction to $70,000 less for pupil transportation to $30,000 less for instructional salaries and $4,700 less for administration. The technology allocation remains the same, at $200,000, while capital outlay remains at $100,000.

Another $1,225,000 in cuts are necessary to reduce the budget to MOE levels.

“A lot of people who hear maintenance of effort, they think of maintaining, but that’s not true,” said Tolbert.

“The dollars have to come from some place,” said school board president Bob Hulburd.

Employee contracts for next year are not complete, Superintendent of Schools Jon Andes noted, posing another challenge for the school system. Negotiations with school bus contractors are also still ongoing.

The school board will hold a public budget workshop on Feb. 2, at 10 a.m., in Newark.

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