- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The St. Mary’s school board approved its latest version of next year’s budget, which will include a 1.5 percent raise for employees and several new positions.
The $183.5 million budget is an increase of almost $6 million from last year, including increases in both county and state funding.
“There’s a lot of good news in here,” Superintendent Michael Martirano said at a school board meeting May 24.
The fiscal year 2013 operating budget includes a net gain of 18.5 positions from the current year. The school system last year dramatically reduced its number of employees, including about 40 teaching position cuts, because of budget cuts.
Martirano said that this year’s budget process with the county commissioners has offered a breath of fresh air after last year’s contention.
“We still have significant needs, but we are working with what they gave us,” board member Mary Washington said.
Martirano said this year the commissioners gave a firm number early on in the process, which allowed him and school board to more easily and realistically craft their budget.
This time last year, Martirano said, teachers were facing three furlough days (which were later done later canceled), a reduction of several dozen teaching positions and possible layoffs because of budget cuts.
Last year, he said, “there was lots of unrest in the rank and file, in terms of our employee groups.”
He said that standardized test scores “took a dip” in some areas last spring, in part because of the budget issues that were being played out.
Board member Cathy Allen said that the superintendent needs to keep in mind that many administrators have had extra work put upon them due to a reduction in positions this year.
“That is something we’re going to have to take a hard look at” in the next budget, Allen said.
The school system this year will use $1 million of its fund balance to cover recurring expenses. That will leave about $1.4 million in surplus, plus whatever extra is gleaned from the fiscal year 2012 budget, Greg Nourse, chief of fiscal services and human resources, said.
The commissioners have included about $2.5 million to pay for school employee pensions, the cost of which will shift from the state to local jurisdictions over the next few years.
The county also is including $2.6 million to put toward other post employment benefits fund for school employees. Government organizations, including public school systems and county governments, must contribute to the trust fund to pay for health and other benefits of retirees.
The budget will now be forwarded to the county commissioners for their approval later this month.