A virtual meeting on Tuesday, April 27, resulted in several requests for more education funding in Charles County’s fiscal 2022 budget.
The $449 million draft includes a $4 million bump for Charles public schools from the current fiscal year total of $195.7 million. However, schools Superintendent Kim Hill requested $206.7 million, or $11 million additional.
Latina Wilson, board chair, said the school system wants to increase starting teacher salary to $50,249 because of “an ever-shrinking pool of teacher candidates.” According to school spokeswoman Katie O’Malley-Simpson, the starting salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree is $49,751.
Wilson added that the extra $11 million would help pay for pay raises for staff and add 12 counselors and psychologists.
Jacob Gerding, librarian at Higdon Elementary School, said the superintendent’s budget request supports a 5% pay raise and a 1% cost-of-living adjustment.
He said that the school system will have to raise the starting teacher salary to $60,000 in five years (because of a new state law), which would represent a 10% increase over each of the next five years. Considering that, he suggested that the county get started by approving Hill’s budget request.
Veronica Golden, an art teacher at Gale-Bailey Elementary School, said she started working in the county 14 years ago and not once have the commissioners fully funded the superintendent’s budget request during that time.
Sean Heyl, an English teacher at McDonough High School, said he’s worked for Charles County schools for 27 years. He said that Calvert and St. Mary’s counties have step increases with a graduated pay scale in their budgets, but Charles doesn’t. He noted that one “20-something teacher is working two jobs due to the cost of living.”
Will Lewis, a social studies teacher at St. Charles High School, said the county’s proposed budget “goes over maintenance of effort [standard], but it is minimal.”
Harry Rothmann said he supports the inclusion of two synthetic turf athletic fields, which are in the proposed budget.
Rothmann, who said he has four children, said synthetic turf is more than three times less expensive per use than a regular field.
“Charles County has one turf field,” he said, noting it is behind Prince George’s, Anne Arundel and St. Mary’s counties in that regard.
“Our youth are at an extreme disadvantage,” said Quentin Metzgar, noting that he is a coach and parent of four youth.
He added that a girls’ soccer championship game that included teams from two Charles County schools had to be played in Lexington Park in St. Mary’s County. “We are far behind these other counties,” he said. “Some of the best players [from Charles] are playing in Alexandria [Va.] and Bethesda.”
The commissioners voted to change the date for final budget adoption from May 11 to May 18. The record was to be kept open for public comments until 5 p.m. on Monday, May 3.
Comments can be submitted by using the e-comment feature at charlescountymd.gov/FY2022BudgetHearing or by calling 301-645-0652 to leave a message. Citizens may also submit written comments to: Commissioners of Charles County, 200 Baltimore St., La Plata, MD 20646.