From Andrew Patrick:
Like many of you, I remember hearing earlier this year that teachers in Harford County were finally going to get a raise next year. So I was rather surprised to read yesterday that not only was that not going to happen, but instead 80 teacher positions would be lost, and fees created for extracurricular activities and sports. A bit of a whiplash, one might say.
I was curious to see the reason for cuts of this kind, so I spent a little time reading the budgets from the Harford Board of Ed, the County Government, and the Maryland State Board of Ed. Based on this reading, I can offer the following to Dagger Readers as the reason for cuts.
Harford County Public Schools was facing a nearly $22 million loss going into this new school year. $15 million of that was an increase in expenditure:
$6,277,736 Proposed Wage Package
$1,479,361 Increase in Teacher Pension Split
$15,026,253 Total Expenditure Increase
(Source: Harford County Public Schools Budget Office “Board of Education’s Proposed Budget Fiscal Year 2014 – Revenue”)
Notice that one-third of the increase came from cost increases of health insurance for school system employees. I don’t know whether such an amount is “normal” or how much arises from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Most of the rest was the proposed wage package, by which we assume that the School Board hoped to pay for pay increases for school system employees.
In their proposed FY 2014 Budget, the Harford County government, the Harford County government covered the $1.479 million for the Teacher Pension split, and nothing else. (Source: Harford County 2014 Proposed Operating Budget)
Additionally, the Maryland State Department of Education was decreasing its State Aid to Harford County by $4 million versus FY 2013. [Or, so the Harford Board of Education claims. According to The Maryland Department of Legislative Services, state aid to Harford Count was supposed to increase by $2,553,941. (Source: Maryland Department of Legislative Services, “Overview of State Aid to Local Governments, Fiscal 2014 Allowance”). I don’t know if this amount was only proposed or actually budgeted, so I can’t tell who is right. The County sources its numbers from a “MSDE Final Revenue Report for FY2013 and MSDE Draft Report for FY2014.” I can’t find this document on the Maryland State Department of Education Web Site, which doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I am inclined to believe the County’s numbers.]
Maryland State Aid is distributed according to a number of factors, including county wealth, enrollment, guaranteed tax base, and the like. Other counties that got decreases in state aid were Carroll, Garrett, Cecil, Calvert, Kent, St. Mary’s, and Allegany Counties. Every other Local Education Area got an increase in state aid. Prince George’s County received the largest increase: nearly $35 million, a 4% increase. Harford got the largest decrease in dollar terms. (Source: Harford County Public Schools Budget Office – Change in State of Maryland Funding by County.)
Combine the expenditure increase with the revenue loss, and one can easily see why the Board of Education felt that belt-tightening was in order. Whether the Board really needed to eliminate teacher positions, as opposed to administration positions or other costs, is a separate question.