Harford County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Barbara Canavan and Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Jim Jewell presented the superintendent’s recommended operating budget for the fiscal year 2015 to the Board of Education at a board business meeting held Monday. Below is the text of their public remarks.
Superintendent’s Remarks for FY 2015 Proposed Budget
Good evening Board President Reynolds, Vice President Grambo, and members of the Board. This evening, we are here to present the proposed operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2015. Although this is the Superintendent’s recommended budget, this proposal was developed through a partnership with the entire community.
At the start of this school year, this budget process began internally with a significantly different conversation than ever before. All of our employees were given the opportunity to provide me with their thoughts on potential cost-saving, revenue-generating, and cost avoidance measures. In addition, for the first time ever, an employee-only budget open forum session was held to allow employees the opportunity to provide their input directly to me.
From there, the public was fully-engaged in the process. In addition to two public open forums, the dedicated budget email account, firstname.lastname@example.org, was opened for all interested community members to provide feedback in any form they felt appropriate. The email will remain open until this Board votes on the final approved budget for next school year in May.
In years past, we have heard consistently from the public that they would like to partner with us in developing the budget. While we cannot meet individually with each constituent, we wanted to open our books to all those who wished to partner with us. Through no cost to the school system, our very-talented Technology staff developed an online budget input tool for use in providing a line-by-line proposal. To date, we received 31 budget submissions through the use of that tool and all of them are posted on the school system website.
My Leadership Team and I spent countless hours reviewing and considering, in great detail, each proposal, suggestion and idea. Thoughtful consideration was given to each idea and many of the ideas were incorporated into this budget request. We heard very clearly from the public and our employees that our focus must be on the academic needs of our students and restoring our employees to a competitive wage package within the job market. With that in mind, the FY15 proposed operating budget was driven by four core objectives: preserving the integrity of the instructional programs, preserving jobs, restoring our salary structure to ensure it is competitive with other systems, and preserving employee benefits.
At this time, I am going to turn it over to our Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Jim Jewell to provide you with the highlights of the FY15 budget request.
The Unrestricted Budget represents an increase of $32.7 million or 7.7% increase
The Restricted Budget represents a decrease of -$.9 million or -3.1% decrease.
The Current Expense fund which is the consolidated Unrestricted and Restricted budget represents an increase of $31.9 million or 7.0% increase
Cost of Doing Business Expenditures
We have included a wage package increase for employees. We have fallen behind our neighboring counties of Baltimore and Cecil for comparable teaching salaries. As Mrs. Canavan stated, we are looking to restore our salary structure to ensure that we recruit and retain the most qualified and effective employees for our students. Harford County Public School employees received one wage increase in the last five fiscal years.
Health and Dental care expenses for the school system are forecast to increase by 8.2 million or 10% next fiscal year.
Pension expenses will increase by $1.9 million related to teaching positions and will be fully-funded by Harford County Government as mandated by the State of Maryland
The proposed Unrestricted Operating Budget includes an increase of $8.9 million in “Cost of Doing Business”. The $8.9 million is comprised of $7.6 million in instructional costs and $1.3 million in Operational/Administrative costs that are necessary to recover, sustain and/or maintain the current educational experience of our children.
State funding is projected to increase by $2.9 million in fiscal year 2015. This projection assumes the same per pupil funding level as last year adjusted by factors such as overall enrollment change, the number of students eligible for Free And Reduced Meals and the number of students receiving special services. The increase in revenue also includes the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (BRFA) grant of $935,788 which was not approved by the Governor in FY 2014, but is projected to be funded as a one-time event in FY 2015.
At this time, the state revenue projection does not reflect potential adjustments to the “County Wealth Factor” and changes in overall funding levels, both major components of determining a county’s revenue allocation. This information will be released in January 2014.
HCPS has reduced the contribution from fund balance from $5.6 million to $3.5 million, a reduction of $2.1 million,
HCPS is requesting $33.0 million in support from the Harford County government for the FY 2015 budget request.
Restricted revenue is projected to decrease $.9 million from State, Federal and other sources in FY 2015.
Thank you, Jim.
With this presentation, this budget request now becomes the Board’s budget to consider. It is important for the public to know that we are still in the very early stages of the budget process and the Board will also hear from the public and others regarding their thoughts and suggestions regarding this proposal.
Please understand — I must be very candid and forthright regarding this request. Without full-funding support of this budget, our current offerings and programs will be compromised. Over the past five years, the school system has reduced the budget by over $38 million dollars through the implementation of cost-reduction measures, coupled with the use of turnover savings. In addition, 240 positions have been eliminated since FY10. Although the cuts were designed to minimally impact students and staff, we can we can no longer provide the services that our community has come to expect. Quite frankly, our students deserve much more.
We have consolidated and reduced staff to make our lean staff even leaner without compromising further programs and services. We have hit the bottom of the barrel. Within this budget you will see that we are looking to restore instructional positions that were lost over the last few years to the detriment of our instructional programs and offerings. Our organization is in a unique position than that of many others in the county. Unfunded mandates plague our system and we are required to abide by the regulations. We do not have funding authority and therefore we rely on our local, state and federal government to supply us with adequate resources.
You just heard Mr. Jewell discuss our Cost of Doing Business items which represents our critical needs without which we cannot meet the educational needs of our students. In addition to those needs, not reflected in our request, is our Priority List which represents items that the school system recognizes as future funding needs that will allow HCPS to expand and enhance the educational opportunities for all students. We take our fiduciary responsibility very seriously and while we are presenting a needs-based budget, it is important to present the Priority List as well so the community is aware of all needs of the school system.
In the event that this budget is not fully-funded, with the amount of input we have received, a complete list of suggested programs, services, and staff that will need to be considered for elimination will be developed. If we arrive at a point where it is clear we will again be facing a budgetary shortfall, we will bring those cuts forth for consideration by the public and this Board. I feel it is necessary to be forthright with this Board and the citizenry– anything less than the requested amount will result in cuts. We must all be proactively prepared for that potential reality.
The success of the school system impacts the livelihood of the entire community, our quality of life and the future of our children. This concludes our presentation, I would be happy to answer any preliminary questions you may have at this time.