School System Officials Review Proposed Budget

NEWARK – Salary increases for teachers, a feasibility study for Buckingham Elementary School and funding for a few new positions are included in the Worcester County Public Schools budget officials reviewed this week.

The Worcester County Board of Education met Tuesday to review the school system’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget. Superintendent Lou Taylor said that based on the public budget input session held in December, a key focus in this year’s spending plan was once again teacher salaries.

“The overwhelming sentiment, as it is each year, was once again to ensure our educators and staff receive a fair compensation package,” Taylor said. “The entire leadership team and I are committed to keeping that as a top priority for our FY23 budget. This has to be a priority for us as our compensation package is the driving force behind our ability to attract and retain high quality professionals both within the classroom and beyond.”

Vince Tolbert, the school system’s chief financial officer, said the current year’s budget was $118,393,188. The proposed budget is expected to increase, as raises for bus contractors are included and salary increases for teachers are being developed.

“We’re still negotiating,” Tolbert said.

Health insurance rates have also not been finalized, though Tolbert is optimistic they’ll stay flat or include just a slight increase.

The budget is also expected to be impacted by the addition of a handful of new positions — a special education teacher, mental health workers, a nurse, technology coach and clerical staff.

The school system also plans to spend $125,000 on a feasibility study for Buckingham Elementary School. The study is the first step in the school construction process. Another one-time capital request included in the budget is $80,000 for roof design fees for Snow Hill Middle School and Cedar Chapel Special School.

“The feasibility study will tell us if it’s best to do a renovation/addition or to build a new school,” Tolbert said.

As far as revenue projections, Tolbert said figures had not been finalized. This is the first year of new funding formulas under the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation.

“We’re still going back and forth on what we’re going to actually have to work with from a state perspective,” he said.

He said final estimates of local and state revenue numbers would be presented Feb. 15, when the board is expected to approve the proposed operating budget.

Taylor expressed his gratitude to the Worcester County Commissioners for their commitment to education funding. The county typically funds more than 80% of the school system’s budget.

“I am so proud to say that through our collaboration, our budget requests have been fully funded for the past five years,” Taylor said.

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.