School Board Outlines County Budget Requests

SNOW HILL – Worcester County schools want another $8.3 million more than the actual budget from fiscal year 2008, the current school year, for fiscal year 2009 (FY09).

The Worcester County Board of Education presented their FY09 budget request to the Worcester County Commissioners Tuesday In total, the school system is asking for $77.8 million in county funds.

“Today we present you with a budget that is the result of a long journey,” Board of Education President Gary Mumford told the County Commissioners Tuesday.

The budget process begins with a parent survey at the end of September and rolls steadily along until the budget is presented in April.

The budget asks for pay raises for teachers and staff to maintain small class sizes and retain highly qualified people, Mumford said.

The schools budget proposes a 3.5-percent cost of living increase for teacher and staff salaries and step increases of 2.5 percent, for a total of a 6-percent increase.

With the increase, the starting teacher salary will be 13th in Maryland, placing Worcester in the middle of the pack. The salary increases, including more funding to bus contractors, will cost an additional $3.7 million.

New teaching positions requested include a work experience program teacher for special education students at Cedar Chapel Special School; a full-time music teacher so both Showell Elementary School and Ocean City Elementary School can have one each; an art teacher each at Snow Hill High School and Snow Hill Middle School; and foreign language teachers for Stephen Decatur Middle School and Ocean City Elementary School.

The budget also calls for an educational assistant to help with testing at Berlin Intermediate School and a Family/School connections position for Snow Hill to provide educational assistance to families in need.

The school board is also asking to add special education teachers to Ocean City Elementary School and Stephen Decatur High School and a reading specialist at Pocomoke High School and Snow Hill High School.

The new Worcester County Technical High School (WTS) will need five new positions, Mumford said, when it opens in October. WTS will need a residential wiring instructor, which the Board of Education has asked for in the past, two custodians, one nurse and one secretary/receptionist. Three current business education teaching positions will be transferred to WTS.

A new pre-engineering program will also be started at the new technical high school, funded through a grant.

“We’re not asking for any teaching positions to address growth in the school system,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes, who pointed out enrollment for FY09 should be at the same level as FY08.

The school board would also like the county to take over paying for some after-school programs, previously funded through grants. The school board wants to use some of the new $200,000 in Thornton funding to keep those programs running.

Textbooks, library books, instructional materials and band equipment all need increases to counteract rising prices for those items.

Health insurance for Board of Education employees is showing a significant increase. Originally, the school board budgeted for a 5-percent rise in health insurance costs.

“Last week we received information it might not be 5 percent. In fact, it might be 17 percent,” Andes said.

The school board is looking into ways to reduce that $1.25 million increase.

The county will bear the brunt of funding the schools budget as usual, according to Andes.

“We rely on Worcester County for three-fourths of the money for our school system,” said Andes. “Why do we rely on you for so much money? It’s because we receive the second lowest amount of state aid in the state of Maryland.”

The state uses a complicated formula that adds up assessed real estate values, reported incomes and other figures and then divides that number by the student body to get a per-pupil wealth figure.

“The state determined that Worcester County is the wealthiest county in the state,” Andes said. “The more local wealth you have the less state aid you receive.”

During the discussion, Commissioner Bud Church asked if a rumor that Worcester County schools had the highest administration costs in the state was true.

“We’re not the highest in the state. Were at 21st in the state of 24,” Andes said.

Worcester County schools use just 2 percent of the budget on administrative costs.

“Eighty-one percent of our funding goes right into the classroom,” Andes said.

Andes said 8 percent goes to the operation of the physical plant, 6 percent to transportation, 2 percent to maintenance of the plant and 1 percent to health and pupil services.

The school board will discuss the proposed budget with county elected officials further at a work session on April 23.