At more than $1 billion, Superintendent Kevin Maxwell's proposed operating budget is the largest in the history of Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) and includes money for employee pay raises.
Maxwell is seeking a 3 percent increase in the operating budget for fiscal year 2014, bringing the overall total to more than $1 billion.
In addition to the operating budget, Maxwell’s recommended capital budget outlines $239 million to cover school construction and development needs.
This is the first time the school system’s recommended operating budget has ever eclipsed the $1 billion mark. The high number is directly related to growing enrollment numbers throughout the county and the needs associated with that increase, said AACPS Chief Operating Officer Alex Szachnowicz.
While the recommended operating budget asks for an additional $31 million in fiscal year 2014, the 3 percent increase in the operating budget is the smallest—on a percentage basis—that AACPS has seen in 17 years, Maxwell said.
“We’re talking big numbers, but it is the smallest percentage increase in 17 years, and I think that’s important to know,” Maxwell said during a press event Wednesday afternoon.
When compared to other school systems throughout Maryland, Maxwell said his recommended budget is right on track with other districts. Montgomery County public schools’ Superintendent Joshua Starr recently recommended a $2.2 billion operating budget for the upcoming school year—a district roughly twice the size of Anne Arundel.
About half of the $31 million increase in the operating budget for fiscal year 2014 is to supply $16 million worth of pay increases for more than 10,000 AACPS employees.
“We can’t keep balancing budgets on the backs of people. [AACPS employees] have given up tens of millions of dollars in negotiated pay increases over the past four years or so of this terrible recession,” Maxwell said. “I think that we’re going to negotiate an increase for our folks, but it’s far below what they’ve already given up over the last four years or so.”
On top of the $16 million recommended to cover the pay increases, Maxwell proposed another $6.4 million to cover future costs expected to accompany new positions, resources and technologies for new programs—ranging from special education classes to the new Phoenix Academy for alternative education services.
Included in the proposed operating budget are funds to pay for 20 new special education teachers and assistants.
The superintendent’s recommended budget is just the first step in a long process before it may become a reality. Szachnowicz said it’s possible the county will make cuts—bringing it below the $1 billion mark. But County Executive John Leopold won’t take a look at the final AACPS budget proposal until the board of education submits it in March 2013.
The public will have a chance to share their thoughts and feelings about the budget in public hearings and budget workshops on Jan. 8, 10 and 22 in Annapolis.