The Charles County Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday evening to approve Superintendent Kimberly Hill’s proposed $411.8 million fiscal year 2021 operating budget request.

The budget is a 4.7% increase over the FY 2020 approved budget.

The budget request includes a county funding increase of $15.4 million — or 8% — over last year, following information that the state increase had been reduced to $2.6 million.

The budget includes a number of mandatory cost increases, including a $2 million estimated increase in health care costs, a $2 million increase to purchase 44 replacement buses and add three new routes, an estimated $450,000 in teachers’ pensions, and an additional $380,000 for liability and workers’ compensation premiums.

The budget also includes $1.25 million for the addition of 17 full-time equivalent teacher positions, due to enrollment growth, $700,000 for the comprehensive K-2 reading program “Into Reading,” $1.2 million for 16 certified teachers for the secondary therapeutic intervention program and $315,766 for three full-time equivalent psychologist positions.

Now that it has been approved, the superintendent’s proposed budget will be sent to the Charles County Board of Commissioners. The county will hold a public hearing on the budget on April 7. The commissioners’ approved budget will be sent back to the school board for final reconciliation and a final budget is expected to be adopted at the board’s June 9 meeting.

Tuesday’s meeting also saw board members and the superintendent accompanied by fifth-grade job shadowers from Mary H. Matula, Billingsley and T.C. Martin elementary schools for the first two hours of the meeting.

The board also received a presentation on the school system’s fine and performing arts program. The meeting was opened with a performance by Thomas Stone High School’s a cappela group, the Thomas Tones. Tim Bodamer, fine and performing arts specialist, said that general music and art are taught to all kindergarten through fifth-grade students, and fifth-grade students also have the opportunity to participate in band and strings. Band, chorus, orchestra and art are available in all middle school grades, and middle schoolers now receive two electives. All seven high schools offer the same selection of music, art and theater classes, including Advanced Placement courses.

Deputy Superintendent Amy Hollstein requested a change to the proposed 2020-2021 calendar. Hollstein said the originally proposed calendar had not taken Election Day, Nov. 3, into account as a day off for students and staff.

“To accommodate that day off, we would like to recommend reducing the inclement weather days from five to four,” Hollstein said.

The board unanimously approved the request.

Board attorney Eric Schwartz also gave the board a brief legislative update. Noting that over 2,600 bills had been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly this year, Schwartz presented on only a few.

Senate Bill 1000, cross-filed as House Bill 1300, is the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future implementation bill, which would implement some of the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.

“The bill is going to pass, we know that already; the question is in what form is it going to pass,” Schwartz said. “Everyone in the General Assembly is behind this bill that needs to be, so the question is, if we can get some of our concerns addressed in the committees and behind the scenes, we’re hopeful we can do that.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Education Association of Charles County President Linda McLaughlin urged everyone to ask their legislators to support the bill.

“Here in Charles County, a new [funding] formula through the Blueprint could mean that we get over $350 million in additional state funding cumulatively over the next 10 years” McLaughlin said.

HB 1/SB 1, the Built to Learn Act has passed a second reading in the House. Hill said the school system would like to see a more even distribution of the nearly $2.2 billion in revenue bond money proposed in the act.

“In its current format, the proposed legislation gives seven counties in Maryland about 87% of the funding, leaving the remaining 17 counties, including Charles County, sharing the remaining 11.5%,” Hill said during her opening remarks.

Schwartz said the school system opposes HB 1022, which would place additional reporting requirements on school systems for alternative schools and placements of students due to behavioral issues. The lead sponsor of the bill is Del. Debra Davis (D-Charles).

“We think we report sufficiently on alternative schools currently; MSDE [Maryland State Department of Education] collects all the information on our schools, our programs, but this bill goes a little bit beyond that,” Schwartz said. “It would require additional staff work and be a burden in a sense on our staff, who are already overwhelmed with paperwork.”

Several other bills have been proposed to fix language in previous bills, Schwartz said.

Twitter: @JamieACIndyNews

Twitter: @JamieACIndyNews