The County Council adopted its fiscal year 2013 budget on Wednesday with a last-minute change that allows 128 new personnel at county schools, including 75 new teachers.
The council passed the budget Wednesday morning during a brisk meeting in which a few final amendments were made. Among the amendments was a drastic change to the school system's budget that afforded them additional positions—the most hired at any one time in nearly a decade, a school official said.
Councilman Chris Trumbauer (D-6th District) of Annapolis called the budget fair and responsible, but said every budget is a compromise.
“When all is said and done, it’s a very responsible budget,” Trumbauer said.
Councilman John Grasso (R-2nd District) of Glen Burnie was the only one to cast a vote against the budget. After the meeting, Grasso criticized the county’s continued reliance on bonds for projects.
“Even though the budget is balanced, we still have a structural problem,” he said. “We didn’t do one thing to take the problem from where it was a year ago to where it is today. And I’m not going to be a part of something that’s going to keep sinking the ship.”
Grasso and county auditor Teresa Sutherland debated during budget deliberations on May 21 over the county shifting several projects from cash to bonds in order to balance the budget.
Schools Get Influx of Teachers
With this year’s budget, the school system will get its largest influx of new teachers in nearly a decade, said Schools Chief Operating Officer Alex Szachnowicz.
In the final amendment to the budget, among 103 proposed, the county made several changes to the school system’s budget, including adding $568,000 for textbooks and supplies, and funding $11.4 million toward teacher pensions, consistent with the state’s shift in payment for the pensions to counties.
Schools will get 128 new personnel, 75 of which will go straight to the classroom, said schools spokesman Bob Mosier.
Superintendent Kevin Maxwell issued a statement Wednesday, saying the school system spent $20 million from its fund balance—$5 million more than they initially planned to—in order to help balance the county’s budget.
Maxwell said the funds will “save other agencies from further cuts,” while allowing schools to decrease class sizes and help close the gap in the student to teacher ratio for schools in need.
Of the 128 new positions, 62 were built into the budget adopted by the school board and passed through the county. The remaining 66 positions came from an additional $12 million from the county to pay back the school system for its maintenance of effort amount from last year, as required by the state.
The additional money will be used to hire the following positions, according to the amendment:
- 2 Performing and Visual Arts (PVA) teachers
- 2 Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) teachers
- 4 guidance counselors
- 2 pupil personnel workers
- 40 classroom teachers
- 5 English as Second Language (ESOL) teachers
- 5 special education teachers
- 5 special education assistants
- 1 psychologist
Trumbauer said they worked with the school system for weeks on exactly how that $12 million would be spent.
"We just didn't want to give them a blank check for $12 million," Trumbauer said.
Mosier said the county was unwilling to grant teachers raises, which Maxwell had asked for in his proposed budget. Instead, the money was used for additional personnel.
School officials are currently investigating how best to distribute the positions throughout the school system, but Mosier said they would be placed at schools that needed them the most.