- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The St. Mary’s County school board still plans to increase the salaries of most teachers and other employees later this year, although other planned items were nixed during a budget work session Wednesday.
The cuts come because the county commissioners are planning to fund less money than the school board requested.
Superintendent Michael Martirano said the school board needs to keep in mind that the commissioners have offered to fund about 4 percent above the required amount to maintain per-pupil costs next year. That amounts to a $3.2 million increase from county government for the schools’ operating budget.
“Everything has been moving swimmingly,” Martirano said of this year’s budget planning.
The school system’s overall budget will increase from $183.5 million this year to $189.2 million. That includes an extra $1 million from the county for retirement benefits, an additional $1.5 million from the school system’s own fund balance and about $98,000 less from the state. The state reduced its funding in part because St. Mary’s is now has the fourth-highest wealth per pupil in the state.
The school board needed to reduce its proposed budget by about $3 million. In this week’s round of reductions, the board cut the number of new jobs planned to save $1.2 million.
Martirano previously said there would be no new jobs added to next year’s budget, except in the case of grant-funded positions that need to be moved to the regular operating budget. Nine proposed new teachers and several other new staff positions will have to be eliminated.
Planned electricity costs were cut by $450,000.
The school system reduced the amounts of money planned for next year to other items by about $100,000 each, including contracted therapists, equipment, bus contractors, substitute teachers and stipends and retirement pay. Other smaller reductions were made to annual leave payout, summer programs, athletic trainers and vehicle maintenance.
“Basically, we’re going back to [fiscal year 2013] numbers, aside from a few items,” Greg Nourse, assistant superintendent of fiscal services and human resources, said.
Some operational items will be funded at slightly higher levels due to inflation, including electricity and bus transportation.
The bulk of any additional money will be directed to salary increases, Martirano said.
The teacher and support staff unions came to a tentative agreement earlier this year that would give employees up to two step increases that were withheld the past two years. Employees who would not have been eligible for either of those raises would get an $800 stipend.
Those contracts will likely be signed some time in June once the budget is closer to finalized, Martirano said.
The school board will take final action May 23 on its budget proposal.
Martirano said that the board is still awaiting the outcome of the commissioners’ budget. The schools put in an extra request to fund new safety and security assistants.