Commissioners give little information on BOE’s demands for more money

The Washington County Board of Commissioners got its first look at the school board’s $318.5 million operating budget for fiscal year 2023, which begins July 1.

Although the commissioners gave little information about what they will ultimately allocate to Washington County public schools, Commissioner Charles Burkett has offered his opinion.

“I would like to see us do more for the school board,” he said.

Superintendent of Schools Boyd Michael, staff and members of the Washington County Board of Education appeared before the commissioners on Tuesday. This is an exercise they do annually since the commissioners finance a large part of the operating budget.

Commissioners are expected to give Washington County Public Schools $109 million from the continued effort. The state’s sustainment provision requires each county government to provide, on a per-student basis, at least as much funding for the local school system as was provided in the previous fiscal year.

But the school district is asking the commissioners for $110.5 million, an increase of nearly $4.7 million, or 4.41%, from what it received in fiscal year 2022 in course, which ends June 30.

The $110.5 million is also over $1.4 million, or 1.36%, of the effort’s sustaining funding of $109 million.

Michael said the students needed extra money.

“The (budget) meets the basic needs of our Washington County students,” he said. “…I hope the county commissioners don’t just consider sustaining the effort. I’m just asking you to go beyond sustaining the effort. That’s not enough to fund the things we need.”

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The school system is expected to receive a revenue increase of $15.94 million over the current fiscal year, for a total of $207 million. The money comes from state coffers.

School Resource Officer Questions

During the meeting, school board chair Melissa Williams asked commissioners to take over funding for the four Washington County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers who patrol schools.

The school system is spending $1.2 million on the four sheriff’s deputies and six Hagerstown Police Department officers who police the schools, said Jeff Proulx, the school system’s chief operating officer.

The school board has often said that the money set aside for school resource officers takes away other needs for students, such as counselors and social workers.

But commissioners’ chairman Jeff Cline told Williams it was not a “fair” question to ask at this time. Cline said commissioners weren’t ready to make a decision on resource officer funding.

“I will keep a fair and open mind,” he said.

What other fees are offered?

Looking closer at the proposed spending plan, the school system could spend $13.5 million on compensation and benefits, $469,000 on more counselors, two social workers and two English teachers.

The school system could spend an additional $2.98 million in the proposed budget to increase the costs of software, operating supplies, telephone, hydro, water, sewer, heating oil, fuel for vehicles and facility maintenance. These figures depend on usage and prices for the coming year.

School board vice president Stan Stouffer suggested that commissioners visit some schools to see what’s going on.

“Set up school visits,” he said. “See what teachers and staff face on a daily basis and tell us what is not needed.”

For months, teachers and staff have been coming to school board business meetings to voice their concerns about working conditions in classrooms. They express concerns about the lack of planning time for unruly students.

Sherry Greenfield is the Education Reporter, covering Washington County Public Schools and the Washington County Board of Education. Follow Sherry on Twitter at Sheina2018 or Instagram at beckmangreenfield.

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