School Board Adopts Budget, Worries Over Future

NEWARK – Level school
funding does not mean Worcester County schools will have the same money as last
year to spend on students, members of the Worcester County Board of Education pointed
out last week as it approved the schools budget for the next school year.

While the amount per
student is the same, fixed costs such as insurance have gone up, said schools’
Finance Officer Vince Tolbert.

Maryland state law
mandates that public school systems must spend no less than the same amount per
student this year as least year. The school board will be restricted to a state
required Maintenance of Effort (MOE) budget for the second year.

The school system was
able to avoid lay-offs or furloughs for staff through the MOE budget it
requested this year, Tolbert said.

“We’re not maintaining.
We’re actually realigning and redirecting, over the past two years, about $2
million of our budget,” said Tolbert.

The schools have had to
use a fund balance created in fiscal year 2009 to make the budget work, he

The Board of Education
officially adopted the 2010-2011 maintenance of effort schools budget,
including the $71 million MOE level funding approved by the Worcester County
Commissioners the first week in June, at their recent June meeting.

“The County
Commissioners have funded this as we presented it to them,” said Board
President Bob Hulburd.

With state and federal
funds, Worcester County public schools will have a budget of $90 million to
work with in the 2010-2011 school year.

The school system will
lose money in the future if no new stimulus package comes out of the federal
government, Hulburd pointed out.

The stimulus finding
awarded to Worcester County schools can only be used for one-time costs, not
for operating expenses, noted Assistant Superintendent for Administration Ed

Based on the current
direction of sticking to MOE funding, which is still effectively a cut from
previous funding, Hulburd said he sees problems coming.

“We could be looking at
a pretty rocky time ahead in the future,” Hulburd said.

“I do think the Board of
Education has done their part. We’re not tone deaf,” said Board member Jonathan

“It’s bittersweet
because we kind of know down the road if this continues to go we’re not
necessarily taking care of things the way we want to take care of things in
Worcester County,” Hulburd.

“This is year two of one
of the most extreme economic times,” said Barber, saying that it is worse than
1991. “It was nothing like this. It did not extend from year to year to year to

Despite the cuts, the
Worcester County school system is still number one in Maryland public schools
in math and number three in Maryland public schools in reading, said school
board member Doug Dryden.

“That tells me our staff
and our teachers are putting in the extra mile,” said Dryden.

Teachers and staff must
be making a greater effort with less resources, Dryden said, adding that he
hopes the county schools can sustain their success if budgets get tougher in
the future.

“It comes down to
people,” said Barber.

The system will be in
danger if the school board starts cutting people, he said.

The Board of Education
voted unanimously to adopt the 2010-2011 school budget.