From Harford County Education Association (HCEA) President Ryan Burbey:
Much attention has been focused on the minimal increases over time in the budget for the Harford County Board of Education. Many have questioned why the Board of Education budget should increase amid slightly declining enrollment. County Executive Craig has attacked staffing at HCPS and argued to seek efficiencies through consolidation with county government. However, when compared to other aspects of county government, funding for the Harford County Board of Education has grown by a much smaller percentage.
In FY 2004, the Harford County Board of Education received $147,397,439. This represented 49% of the Harford County General Fund. In FY 2014, the Harford County Board of Education received $221,300,729. This is an increase of about 50% but as a percentage of the General Fund, funding for our schools has been reduced over 4% under Mr. Craig’s leadership. By comparison, the office of the County Executive currently receives $2,185,846. In FY 2004, the office of the County Executive received $811,765. In just ten short years, funding for the office of the County Executive has increased more than 169%. Had the funding for the Harford County Board of Education increased by the same percentage, its funding would currently be over $370 million; more than $150 million above its current level.
In FY 2004, the Harford County Procurement Department received $724,141. In FY 2014, it receives $4,240,912. That is an astounding increase of 485%. The Harford County Law Department has experienced an increase of 45%. Planning and zoning has increased by 34%. Community Services has increased by 73%. Despite the County Executive’s claim of reducing government, the general government category of his FY 2014 budget is over 56% higher than the FY 2004 budget. Don’t these departments perform exactly the same tasks in 2014 as in 2004? Perhaps before the County Executive asks that the Board of Education examine its books for efficiencies, he should examine those of the Harford County Government.
Even more astounding than the increases in the costs of governmental administration are the increases in spending for PAYGO projects and purchases. Just the General Fund portion of PAYGO in FY 2014 was nearly $17 million. In 2004, this was only $6.5 million.
That is an almost 300% increase. When considering the entire allocation to PAYGO, County Executive Craig’s FY 2014 Budget allocates over $31 million, while as recently as FY 2011 only $11 million was allocated to PAYGO. That is an increase of $20 million, which could have been used to fund our schools.
Following the County Executive’s Budget Hearing, Mr. Craig stated, “You want increased funding for education, where would you get the money?” Here are a few simple suggestions. Reduce expenditures in the office of the county executive, procurement department, law department, as well as, planning and zoning department. Eliminate all PAYGO expenditures. If a project is not worthy of funding through bonds, while the bond market is at historically low interest rates, it is not worth completing. Utilize fund balance and reduce carried fund balance to fund key expenses in education and public safety. Eliminate the practice of funding OPEB obligations for county departments through supplemental appropriations. This practice renders all budgetary percentages invalid. Fund all departments with earmarked revenue streams exclusively through those revenue streams. Quite simply, County Executive Craig must live up to his small government mantra by first holding himself accountable for reducing unnecessary increases and irresponsible expenditures in the departments which he currently manages.