Commissioners Irked Again Over Student Funding Requirements; MOE Change Requires At Least $2.4M Increase In School Funding

Commissioners Irked Again Over Student Funding Requirements; MOE Change Requires At Least $2.4M Increase In School Funding
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SNOW HILL – County officials responded to news that Worcester County’s Maintenance of Effort calculation would be increasing with candid criticism.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Worcester County Commissioners, Chief Administrative Officer Harold Higgins informed officials that Maintenance of Effort (MOE) funding would increase $2,387,012 in FY2018. The increase is tied to modifications made to MOE requirements made by the state in 2012 that are only just now having a financial impact.

“We’re just being penalized again because we’re supposedly a wealthy county,” Commissioner Jim Bunting said.

The state’s MOE law requires Maryland’s counties to provide the same level of funding, on a per pupil basis, that they did the prior year. With enrollment of 6,259 students, Worcester County appropriated $12,972 per student in FY 2017.  The 2.4-percent increase mandated by the 2012 legislative change means the county’s MOE funding for the coming year will amount to $83,580,814 — roughly $2.4 million more than it was in FY2017.

“The only way you can avoid that increase would be to petition the state,” Higgins said.

Commissioner Chip Bertino said the new “escalator provision” mandating the 2.4-percent increase was unfair.

“I’d just like to go on record and say that I think this is a despicable formula that cripples our county and penalizes it for factors that are outside our doing,” he said. “It’s not right. It’s unfair and I do believe the board of education agrees with us to a certain degree. Anything we can do to protest this I think would be to our advantage, certainly to the advantage of our taxpayers.”

While the MOE funding for the school system in the coming year will amount to $83,580,814, the proposed budget also includes funding for salary increases. The budget requested by the school system would allow for a payroll increase of 2.8 percent. The budget would also provide a 1-percent increase to bus contractors’ hourly and mileage rates. In addition, the proposed budget would allow for starting teacher salaries to increase 2 percent, to $44,257.

In a Worcester County Board of Education meeting held Tuesday afternoon, representatives from the Worcester County Teachers Association (WCTA) and the Worcester County Education Support Personnel Association (WCESPA) officially signed the agreements outlining the pay increases.

“As always, we appreciate your support,” Beth Shockley-Lynch, president of the WCTA, told the school board.

Gary McCabe, representing WCESPA, also praised the process.

“It’s really special in Worcester County that we have a long history of equal and fair treatment for all employees,” he said. “We’re very pleased that the relationship has improved significantly with the county commissioners.”

Superintendent Lou Taylor thanked the representatives and their negotiating teams.

“I’m very proud to say that everyone that came to the negotiating table truly had in their heart what was best for the students of Worcester County,” he said. “That was always the goal and will remain the goal.”

Taylor is scheduled to meet with the commissioners Tuesday, March 28, to go over the school system’s proposed budget in detail.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.