Proposed School Budget Calls for Job Freezes, Spending Cuts
A budget offered by the schools superintendent does not call for furloughs or layoffs.
The proposed $1.2 billion operating budget for Baltimore County Schools for the 2012 fiscal year makes tough spending choices but preserves core educational goals, Superintendent Joe A. Hairston said.
The budget, which Hairston introduced to the Board of Education and the public Wednesday night, is just .5 percent or $6.5 million more than the budget for the current fiscal year.
The near-flat spending includes a 5 percent cut in school and office budgets, the freezing of 196 anticipated teacher vacancies and a delay in buying computers, furniture and library books.
Despite those cuts, the budget does not include furloughs or layoffs and does include salary raises for employees who are eligible.
“This proposed budget preserves and protects those core programs and services as outlined in the Blueprint for Progress,” he said, referring to the document that outlines the goals and objectives of the school system.
But Cheryl Bost, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said she’s not as certain the budget won’t affect the fundamentals of the system.
“We’re still too close to the classroom,” she said, referring to the 5 percent school budget reduction and the freezing of positions.
“That will have a direct impact on students and teachers,” she added.
While recent budget cycles have been tough, there were several factors that made this budget season more difficult, Hairston said.
Enrollment increased by 528 students this fall and the school system is projecting an increase next fall of 864 students, the largest projected increase in eight years.
School officials also had to fill the gap left by the loss of $19.4 million in one-time federal stimulus funds. The county government is also expected to contribute just .3 percent above the Maintenance of Effort, which is a state formula that uses enrollment to determine the minimum amount of money the county should give the school system. In the past decade, the county has contributed up to 8 percent over that figure.
County funds make up 43 percent of the proposed budget, with state funds accounting for 55 percent.
The Board of Education will vote on the budget at a later date.
Also at Wednesday's meeting, the board voted to approve the 2012 capital program budget, which includes funding for construction projects. The capital budget now goes to the county for approval. Included in this proposal are funds for an addition to Hampton Elementary School.
A public hearing will be held on the budget at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 18, at Ridge Ruxton School in Towson.