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Questions and Answers about HCPSS Fiscal Year 2017 Operating Budget

County Executive Allan Kittleman recently announced his education budget proposal, which would provide $562.2 million for next school year, $50.4 million less than the $612.6 million the Board of Education requested from the county. The school system would receive $18.1 million more than last year, which is $7.2 million above the minimum amount the county is required to fund by state law.

Why has the Board’s FY 2017 budget increased so much over the FY 2016 budget?

The Board’s budget includes $29.4 million for negotiated salary increases for FY 2017 and $12.7 million for the increases from the prior year negotiated agreements. In addition, the state pension obligation increased by $6.8 million and contributions to fund employee health costs increased by $24.9 million. These costs total more $73.8 million and are all increases over the prior year budget.

If the Executive’s budget fully funds salary increases, why can’t the Board make the Executive’s budget work?

The Executive’s budget cut a total of $50.4 million from the Board’s request. $39.5 million of the cuts were to Fixed Charges, which primarily funds employee health care, pension, life insurance and Social Security. These costs represent the obligations for employee benefits that must be paid. The cut made by the Executive to Fixed Charges will leave the Board without the funds to pay these obligations.

HCPSS launched an online budget survey to increase public input into school funding decisions. Why do people need to complete this survey?

If the County Council does not restore funding to the Board’s budget, the Board is faced with a cut of $50.4 million. The online budget survey shares information that allows stakeholders to see the impact of not receiving full funding for the Board’s budget.

The Board has held public hearings and pubic work sessions for community participation in the budget. However, these work sessions represent a small portion of the stakeholders impacted by the FY 2017 Operating Budget. The survey is an opportunity for citizens, employees and parents to share their budget priorities with the Board.

Why are the budget survey choices primarily “cut” or “keep”?

If the Board’s budget is cut by $50.4 million, large reductions or deferrals in funding are needed to protect the public’s priorities.

What cuts are proposed that do not directly impact students?

All new initiatives are included as cut options. Cuts are proposed to conferences, supplies, operational areas, equipment purchases and central office staffing.

Why are furloughs, increases to class size, and cuts or deferrals to employee compensation proposed?

These are not cuts the Board suggests, however, with 85 percent of the Board’s budget going to employee salaries and benefits, there is no way to make cuts totaling $50.4 million without considering these items. Should any of these cuts be necessary, they will require renegotiation with bargaining units.

Why are there so many items in the budget that were excluded from the budget survey?

There are many items within the operating budget that cannot be reduced. For instance, most utilities and transportation costs cannot be cut.

A key priority for the Board is to ensure that no one loses their job. The Board is committed to protecting existing employee jobs, so employee base salaries and benefits, which include contributions for Social Security, retirement, life insurance and health care costs, are not proposed as cuts.

Why are respondents to the budget survey required to give their name and email address?

In order to ensure that respondents to the survey are actual stakeholders in the operating budget, they are asked to provide their name and email address. It is important that the responses are from county residents, parents and school system employees. This survey is another way for stakeholders to provide the Board with their opinions, just as when they give testimony at public hearings and are required to give identification. This information is only used to ensure the integrity of the survey.