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Smith projects level state funding

By LAURA DUKES

Staff writer

With the fiscal 2014 Calvert County Public Schools budget being presented earlier than usual, CCPS Superintendent Jack Smith used Thursday’s board meeting to give the Calvert County Board of Education a small preview of what to expect.

Smith and Chief Budget and Business Officer Tammy McCourt projected that CCPS will see a 1.4 percent increase for fiscal 2014, and McCourt projected having a budget of about $195,350,243.

McCourt did say potential considerations and concerns include increasing pension costs; employee contract negotiations, which have recently started; and reductions in enrollment.

Smith attributed these enrollment reductions to a declining number of young families choosing Calvert County as their place to settle. Smith said many of the county’s residents, much like himself and his wife, have already put their kids through school but are still remaining in the same house.

“A lot of people right now would sell their houses if the market were attractive to them,” Smith said.

Board member Tracy McGuire said her neighborhood used to have two buses traveling to Huntingtown Elementary School, but now only has one.

Prior to discussing actual budget numbers, Smith also described the budget process to the board, as well as the newly elected board members, Joe Chenelly and Kelly McConkey, who sat in the audience at Thursday’s meeting.

On Jan. 24, 2013, Smith said he will be presenting the school system’s budget to the community and then turning it over to the board of education. This is about a month earlier than Smith has presented the budget in the past.

“It has to be a balanced budget. That, by no means, means it’s funded,” Smith said, referencing the current fiscal 2013 budget for which the board had to ask the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners for more funding than they had agreed to give.

Smith said once the board of education had the budget it would be open for public comment until March 1, at which point it would need to be turned over to the commissioners unless the board requested more time.

Smith said for fiscal 2013, 57 percent of funding came from the county; 42 percent came from the state; and the rest came from federal funding and other sources like interest income.

Smith explained that state funding came from school enrollment factored with county wealth.

He said if the county’s wealth were to decrease and enrollment were to increase, “we might get a larger share of the pie” when it came to state funding.

“I expect level funding: no increase from the state and no decrease,” Smith said.

Smith said about 80 to 85 percent of the budget was spent on school system employees and 17 percent went toward fixed charges like insurance, Social Security and retirement costs.

Smith said he was sometimes asked why he couldn’t put a cap on capital projects and use the money allocated for them on items like employee salaries. He said the dollars allocated for capital projects had to go toward capital projects, as mandated by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).

“None of this goes into the operating budget,” Smith said, adding that the food services budget is also required to contain three months’ worth of surpluses.

Smith said the majority of capital projects, like the new Calvert High School, are almost always worth it in the end.

“I walk through Calvert High School and I feel a different response from the students. ... It’s just better,” Smith said.

ldukes@somdnews.com