BERLIN – The $110 million proposed budget approved by the Worcester County Board of Education this week will give educators the biggest salary increase in a decade.
While the budget still has to be reviewed by the Worcester County Commissioners, the board of education this week approved a $110 million budget for fiscal year 2020. The spending plan is highlighted by increases in capital spending and raises for employees.
“As the board knows this is the best salary package we’ve been able to offer in the last 10 years,” said Vince Tolbert, the board of education’s chief financial officer.
Tolbert presented a summary of the $110,539,188 budget at Tuesday’s school board meeting. As proposed, the budget includes $89.9 million in county appropriations, an increase of 2.73 percent over the current year. The budget shows $19.8 million in state aid, an increase of more than 17 percent. Tolbert said that was a big increase compared to recent years and added that unlike some school systems, Worcester always received the bulk of its funding from county government.
Expenditure increases in the proposed budget include $2,353,403 in salary increases — a step and 2 percent cost-of-living-adjustment — as well $83,264 in bus contractor increases.
Notably there is no health insurance rate increase in the proposed budget.
“This is the first time I can remember not having a rate increase in health insurance,” Tolbert said.
The budget includes $853,055 in funding for one-time capital projects.
“Included in that is $131,055 for schematic and partial design fees for Stephen Decatur Middle School,” Tolbert said. “As the board knows, that project’s coming up in a couple years, to add the wing on, and to keep that project on track we need to start spending some money to do those schematic and partial design pieces.”
Education officials are also seeking capital funding for roof replacement at Pocomoke Middle School, portable classroom repairs at Stephen Decatur Middle and HVAC unit replacement at three other schools. Tolbert pointed out the portable classrooms at Decatur Middle had been in use for years.
“Those portables have been there for a number of years,” he said. “In some cases, I think they came from Stephen Decatur High School when that was renovated back in 1998 and 2000 so we’re asking for some money to repair those portable classrooms.”
One-time local grant items included in the budget include $200,000 for elementary reading curriculum and $50,000 for a Pocomoke Middle after-school program.
The approved budget now goes to the county for review with a budget work session planned with the commissioners April 2.