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May 26, 2014

Tackling School System Budgeting Pro-Actively

Billy Shreve

Recently the Frederick County Board of Education made several statements in support of an increase in education funding by the Board of County Commissioners. While its letter was big on hyperbole, it was lacking in honest and complete facts.


The Board of Education stated that it only requested a 2.9% increase in funding for the next fiscal year over its current budget. The request was only 2.9% higher than their total budget funded by the county plus state and federal governments. However, the school board request is an increase of 7.88% to Frederick County taxpayers when calculated based on the county contribution only.


While an increase of almost 8 percent may look small to the school board, it is more than twice the percentage increase it thought it was, and will result in roughly more than an $18 million dollar increase in Frederick County Public Schools base budget every year…forever.


Another fact: Comparing the previous fiscal year to the proposed upcoming fiscal year funding, the proposed budget for all Frederick County government operations increases by only 0.49%. That is correct: the proposed budget increases by less than one half of a percent.


The Board of Education budget request for an almost 8% increase in county funding for its operating funds, but … it also requested additional one-time funding. Combined, the school board total request is 12.75% over its previous budget. The Fiscal Year 2015 proposed operating budget for Frederick County Public Schools is $548,348,808; and the total Frederick County Operating Budget for next year is $518,843,523.


The Board of Education, in its letter, also noted that its requested additional funding could help provide for higher teacher starting salaries and targeted technology increases. The county commissioners on many occasions have offered budgeting ideas and suggestions to the school board. They have offered to review, investigate and identify potential joint savings and synergies to streamline government and provide for quality education to our citizens and students. These suggestions have mostly been ignored and disregarded.


The commissioners can only appropriate money to the Board of Education; they cannot direct what gets funded, like teacher salaries. Specific funding decisions are made exclusively by the school board. Example: If the Board of Education wants to fund salary increases for teachers, it can.


As a matter of fact, while trying to provide input for budgetary savings, I personally have actually been gaveled down at Board of Education meetings and not permitted to provide input.


I have led the effort to have Wi-Fi in all schools by August of this year. In this way, every classroom becomes a computer lab. Mobile phones and tablets are the most advanced technology available today, and Wi-Fi allows students to remain plugged in at school, not shut off from the world of technology that is at their fingertips. The next step is to have every student have a computer assigned to them by the school system. Learning doesn't stop when students leave the classroom.


Yet another fact is that this Board of County Commissioners has been as aggressive as any prior board in advancing new school capital projects, funding school maintenance, and funding technology programs and still remaining within its budget.


The Blaine Young Board of County Commissioners has more than doubled its funding for school maintenance, increased technology funding to aid our students in preparing for a better and more advanced future, and moved up funding for school capital projects. It has moved up funding for the new elementary school in Urbana, a new addition to Urbana Middle School and a new Frederick High School.


I believe the Board of Education conveniently ignores critical facts, then blames the county commissioners.


The Young Board of County Commissioners believes in innovative solutions that result in real proven results, not just being another part of the problem.


There are the facts! After all, isn’t it supposed to be about the children’s education?


[Editor’s Note: Commissioner Shreve is liaison to the Frederick County Board of Education.]


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