Board of Education Approves FY 2016-2017 Consolidated Current Expense Operating Budget
At a special meeting of the Wicomico County Board of Education on June 21, the Board of Education approved the FY 2016-2017 Consolidated Current Expense Operating Budget, which will fund the operations of Wicomico County Public Schools for some 15,000 students in the coming school year.
The Board hailed the spirit of cooperation in budget discussions with the county and thanked the County Executive and County Council for once again funding Maintenance of Effort (MOE). This year MOE was a $626,667 increase due to the school system growing by 245 students, the 2nd highest rate of enrollment growth in the state.
The Board also highlighted the commitment of the State of Maryland to fund education, with the governor and General Assembly providing an additional $6.9 million in state aid for Wicomico. The State of Maryland funds approximately 76% of the Board’s General Fund operating budget.
The Wicomico County Board of Education’s FY 2016-2017 Consolidated Current Expense Budget totals $198,887,485. The unrestricted portion, referred to as the General Fund, is $184,442,841, and the restricted portion, which reflects federal and state grants that can only be used for restricted purposes, is $14,444,644. General Fund (unrestricted) operating revenues will increase by 3.98 %, totaling $7,065,417. The budget will fund the negotiated agreements with all four employee groups.
This budget continues to reflect the commitment of the Board of Education and the school system to the Bridge to Excellence Master Plan. Each line item in the budget is aligned to accomplish the Board’s three strategic priorities of High Student Achievement, Safe Learning Environment, and Effective and Efficient Operations. Our motto, Success – Every Student, Every Day, drives our goals and priorities as we work our way out of challenging economic times.
The budget is for the fiscal year that will begin July 1. The final approved budget will be posted soon on the Board’s website; go to www.wcboe.org and click on Budget Report for budget and financial information.
Among the many budget highlights of interest to students and families:
- Participation fees for high school athletics and extracurricular activities will be tiered so that students qualifying for Free and Reduced Meals pay less than students who do not qualify, easing the financial burden for families of limited means. For varsity and junior varsity athletics, the fee is $10 Free, $20 Reduced, and $40 paid. For extracurricular activities including high school cheerleading, marching band and band front, and Destination Imagination for all grades, the fee will be $5 Free, $10 Reduced and $20 paid.
- New portables will be located at Northwestern Elementary and Prince Street Elementary due to enrollment increases.
- 27.5 new positions have been added to serve students, including:
- 7.5 reading intervention specialists to ensure every primary-grade school has a specialist to support early reading success
- 4 elementary teaching positions to accommodate enrollment growth
- 3 high school math teachers to provide additional math courses in keeping with the state’s new requirement that students be enrolled in math all four years; 1 additional math teacher position was created through realignments
- 3 front office staff members due to the workload in three schools
- 3 elementary behavior intervention specialists to address student behavior needs
- 2 additional special education teachers to serve the growing number of students requiring services, and 2 special education program specialists to provide specialized support to teachers and address behavior and disability issues
- 1 position each for a physical education teacher, a custodian, and a receptionist
The Board committed resources to literacy due to the fundamental importance of reading to success in school and beyond. A student who leaves 2nd or 3rd grade not yet literate will quickly fall behind as course material becomes more and more challenging. “We will have General Fund or Title I reading teachers in every primary-grade school in the county, and we are very excited about that,” said Dr. Margo Handy, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction.
The Board will utilize the $7 million in additional revenues for the following priorities:
- $3.36 million for ongoing “Cost of Doing Business” expenditures
- $2.41 million to recruit and retain a highly qualified workforce (amount necessary to fund our negotiated contracts with our four (4) bargaining units)
- $490,795 for the increase in the teacher pension contribution to the state
- $150,000 for additional utility costs associated with communication and internet service
- $115,730 related to instructional software annual maintenance and upgrade costs
- 193,475 for various other cost of doing business
- $3.85 million for critical new requests in the following priority areas:
- Student Discipline, Safety & School Climate – $1,624,787:
- $189,143 for 3.0 FTE behavior intervention specialists for elementary schools to address student behavior needs early for greater impact
- $304,443 for 4.0 FTE special education teachers (2.0) due to the growing student population and special education program specialists (2.0) to support teachers, address behavior and unique disability needs
- $170,000 for one-on-one assistants required by special education student Individualized Education Plans (IEP), as reflected in our historical trend and growing population
- $238,000 to contract with a provider to enhance local services to academic and emotionally challenged students
- $380,000 to facilitate the Choices program relocation
- $343,201 for other costs associated with the implementation of initiatives addressing student discipline, safety and school climate
- Literacy Initiatives – $501,563:
- $471,563 for 7.50 FTE elementary reading intervention teachers to address student literacy needs
- $30,000 for leveled literacy intervention kits to meet the needs of developing and remedial readers
- Enrollment Growth & Class Size – $644,675:
- $251,327 for 4.0 elementary teachers to accommodate student growth (added 245 FTE students in the current school year and projecting an additional 87 students next year
- $300,000 to set-up and fit-up portables to address our growing enrollment
- $93,348 for other school classroom needs related to enrollment growth
- College and Career Ready Initiatives, Mandates & PARCC Testing – $250,495:
- $188,495 for 3.0 FTE math teachers to address the mandated requirements for students to enroll in a math course in each year of high school and provide a required transitional math course
- $41,000 to supplement funding for PSAT and SAT testing bundles
- $21,000 for student performance assessment and data management system costs due to enrollment growth
- Additional costs due to Facility needs and expanded programs – $831,097
- $500,000 athletic field maintenance to assure safe playing surfaces for student athletics
- $27,206 for a 1.0 FTE custodial position to cover increased square footage
- $303,891 for various operational and maintenance costs to address various system needs
Because the Board of Education understands that the local economy continues to be lackluster despite signs of improvement elsewhere in the state, the Board cut an additional $152,183 of existing budgeted line items. Each year reductions are more difficult to find, however, since total cuts to the school system budget since FY2010 have equaled approximately $19 million. Also included in this budget is a list of $2.86 million in additional requests that were submitted by principals and other budget managers. These requests were not funded.
The budget process that concluded on June 21 began way back in October, when principals and department heads began evaluating budget needs and building a budget starting from zero, so that every expense could be examined. Input comes from staff, parents, students, and the community. “As soon as the school year begins, we begin working on the budget for the next school year,” Dr. Handy said. “It takes a lot of thought, a lot of planning, and a careful review of all the available data to make decisions. A lot of voices go into this.”
The Board and Superintendent take seriously their fiduciary responsibilities to manage public funds. To that end, this budget includes approximately $4.17 million in budget realignments. The budget realignments reflect cost avoidance and the proper alignment of funds to comply with state reporting requirements.