School System Delays Budget Adjustments

SNOW HILL – School system officials will not adjust the Worcester County Public Schools proposed budget until the Worcester County Commissioners have finalized their budget.

Though the commissioners voted May 9 to approve a maintenance of effort (MOE) budget for the school system, education officials said this week the school board would not yet be making changes to the proposed budget, which was based on a nearly $5 million larger allocation from the county.

“The board of education will likely meet very soon after the county strikes the budget on June 6, as at that time, the local share for the board of education will be finalized,” said Carrie Sterrs, the school system’s coordinator of public relations and special programs.

During a school board meeting last week, Chief Financial Officer Vince Tolbert advised the board that a MOE budget would not allow the school system to fund the cost-of-living adjustment already promised to teachers and support staff. He said the county allocation would actually be $279,000 less than the current year’s allocation.

“Mr. Tolbert was correct in stating without fully funding the board’s FY24 budget request, there is not adequate funding available to meet the previously negotiated salary increases for educators and support staff as well as the agreed upon increases for our bus contractors without making significant cuts that will likely impact programs and materials of instruction that support student learning,” Sterrs said. “Regardless, if the budget struck on June 6, funds the board of education at maintenance of effort, which is $4.5 million less than requested, the negotiating teams will have to go back to the table to renegotiate with both of our associations as well as have discussions with our bus contractors.”

While the school system is waiting for the county’s final budget decision, Chip Bertino, president of the commissioners, said the education budget was already decided.

“The commissioners addressed the board of education budget earlier this month,” he said. “I don’t foresee anything changing.”

He added that the county still hadn’t received the detailed budget information staff had been requesting since April. That request for information was submitted again last week as a Public Information Act (PIA) request. It now has to be answered in 30 days.

“We started on Monday to comply with this PIA, and we will make sure they get the necessary documents,” Todd Ferrante, president of the school board, said this week.

County officials have said they’ve been asking for details on the school system’s proposed budget for more than a month. When the commissioners voted 4-2 to approve the maintenance of effort budget, they cited the school system’s lack of transparency as well as the history of growing education costs.

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.