Teacher raises, newest school increase budget
Board includes step increases deferred in past
Teachers and the school system’s newest high school are the top priorities in the Charles County Board of Education’s budget for next year.
The school board approved Superintendent Kimberly A. Hill’s fiscal 2015 proposed operating budget in February and sent its adopted budget to the Charles County commissioners last week.
The $342.7 million budget shows an increase of 6.4 percent from last year.
The system is requesting a 12 percent increase — $19.7 million — in county funding.
State funding is expected to increase by about $2.4 million, according to school system staff.
Of the $20.7 million increase to the budget, the school system is reserving $8.8 million for teacher salary negotiations. Administrators are looking to include a two-level step increase for employees who are eligible.
The proposed budget requests $7.7 million for the first phase of the two-phase process to open St. Charles High School.
The request would provide first-year operations with a projected enrollment of 1,000 students.
According to a press release from the school system, 74.8 new staff positions were created to support the school, in addition to the 44 positions that will be transferred from other high schools.
At its Feb. 11 meeting, school board Chairwoman Roberta S. Wise expressed concern as to whether transfer requests to the new high school would affect other schools negatively.
“We will not be decimating any school or any specific department within a school no matter how many folks from that school request a transfer,” Hill said.
Also in the budget, the school system is looking to reduce its fund balance target to $2.2 million, which is $1 million less than last year.
The goal is to reduce the system’s reliance on one-time funding sources to fund operations.
The increase in funds also would go toward funding student resource teachers, teacher pensions and nurses’ contracts.
In order to comply with the law, the school system shows in its proposed budget an increase of 10 cents for school lunches.
Prior to the board approving the budget, Education Association of Charles County President Elizabeth Brown expressed both gratitude and concern for the proposed budget.
In her monthly report to the board, she said, “We thank the superintendant for including two steps in the budget for employees’ salaries, but I would also like to ask that the Board submit a budget that really shows the true needs of the system. Educators are two steps behind where they should be for their experience. The administrative scale needs adjustment, and veteran teachers have patiently been waiting for a COLA [cost-of-living adjustment] for some time. It’s time to ask for exactly what is needed.”
School system staff sent the budget to the commissioners. Representatives of the board and school staff will attend the commissioners’ public hearing on the general fund capital budget and the constant yield tax rate, which tentatively is scheduled for April 23.