Harford County Board of Education President Nancy Reynolds made the following public comments at County Executive David Craig’s fiscal year 2015 budget hearing held on November 25th at Fallston High School. A copy was provided to The Dagger for publication.
· County Executive Craig and members of the cabinet, I thank you for the opportunity to address you this evening on behalf of my colleagues on the Board of Education in support of the more than 5,400 employees and approximately 38,000 children that make Harford County Public Schools the excellent education system that our community expects and deserves.
· As you know, I currently serve as the President of the Board of Education of Harford County. Having spent majority of my career as an educator and administrator in this county for more than 31 years, I have been afforded many opportunities to see, firsthand, the effects adequate funding, or lack of funding, can have on an educational system.
· Throughout the economic downturn, the school system has been reducing the budget by making cuts that have had minimal impact to the classroom until this year. As referenced by the impact of the critical decisions we had to make this year, we have arrived at a point where we can no longer maintain our current level of services with the funding provided.
· Since fiscal year 2009, the school system has eliminated 240 positions while enrollment has only decreased an average of 154 students per year (or a total of 769 students). This may seem inconsequential to some but the fact remains that while the number of students may have slightly decreased, the needs of our students and the demands for accountability from the state and federal government has increased and continues to increase each year regardless of funding.
· In addition to the $13.1 million in positions cut, we have incorporated cost-saving measures and sustainability efforts that have a realized a savings of $14.4 million over the last five years. We continue to review and analyze initiatives that will allow us to conduct the business of education more effectively and efficiently. Our current superintendent has opened up the budget process to the community and asked for even greater participation than ever before. As a Board, we look forward to reviewing the input provided by the community and incorporating thoughtful measures, where possible.
· With all this said, our employees have been suffering the effects of the economy and the lack of adequate funding of the school system budget requests. Our employees have not received salary increases or longevity adjustments in four of the last five years putting HCPS in a perilous position in terms of attracting the best and the brightest to educate our children. We must provide a competitive compensation package in order to attract and retain the best educators and staff. In addition, our inability to fund adequate salary adjustments for our staff has left our employees feeling as though their Board of Education, their community and their elected officials do not appreciate their efforts on behalf of our children.
· We realize that you have a difficult job ahead of you in developing a budget that reflects the needs of our county. We are confident that you, the leader of our county, want to do what is best for our youth and we hope to assist you in that effort.
· The job that our teachers perform each day for our students with passion, care and concern, is critical to every other career that keeps our county running efficiently and making Harford County a great place to live, play and work. Without that foundation, not only does our county’s economy suffer but our children suffer.
· Knowing you have a difficult task ahead of you, I, on behalf of my colleagues, request that you support the children of this county by helping us maintain the rigorous and meaningful education that generations of students have been afforded. We respectfully request that you fully-fund the education budget this school year. Our children are counting on you.
From Harford County government:
County Executive Hosts Informative Budget Input Session
Roughly 250 citizens attended the County Executive’s annual Budget Input Session held last night at Fallston High School, with approximately 60 people addressing the County Executive, Director of Administration, County Treasurer, and Budget Manager.
“I thank all of the county citizens who spoke at and attended this year’s budget hearing,” County Executive Craig remarked. “Before we begin to craft the budget for the coming year, it is vital that we hear from citizens regarding what they would like to see funded.”
In the past, the public input session had typically been held in January. This year, the Administration decided to hold it in November to allow for public comment before the budget begins to take shape.
County Executive Craig continued, “This year we heard from many public school teachers and parents who shared their desire for more county funds to be allocated to the Board of Education. We also heard from advocates for Parks & Rec programs, as well as a representative of the Deputy Sheriff’s Union.”
“Over the next few months I and my staff will formulate the FY 2015 budget taking into consideration the comments received from citizens at this hearing. We will also be taking into consideration county revenues, increases in the costs of doing business, and budget requests from county departments and outside agencies.”
“As always, we must balance the divergent wants and needs of our community with the resources provided by our county’s taxpayers. I appreciate and value the comments provided at the input session and throughout the upcoming budget process,” County Executive Craig concluded.
For more information on the county’s budget, visit www.harfordcountymd.gov/budget.