The fiscal year 2015 budget approved last week by the Frederick County Board of Education totals more than $548-million--a 3.1% increase over the current spending plan--and that could cause some problems. The County Commissioners have said that they will only fund the school system at maintenance of effort level.
"If we get maintenance of effort funding this year, then we'd have to look at cutting deeply and drastically," says Dr. Theresa Alban, Superintendent of Frederick County Public Schools.
Maintenance of effort keeps the budget funded at the same rate as the previous year.
The school system has been under maintenance of effort funding since 2009, and Dr. Alban says cuts have been made to accommodate that. The only thing left is staffing, and that includes teachers and other staff, which Dr. Alban says she does not want to touch.
"Even if you don't cut them but you don't fund salary increases, or you ask them to absorb more of the cost for insurance, then you are essentially asking them to take a pay cut as a way to fund the budget," she says.
This will encourage many teachers to apply for openings at nearby school districts, she says. "When we talk about recruiting and retaining the best teachers, taking pay cuts and seeing other districts getting pay increases, it begins to make people wonder," says Dr. Alban. She says she has seen a number of teachers leave for other districts for better salaries.
Along with concerns about salaries, Dr. Alban says maintenance of effort funding doesn't allow for growth. "Out textbooks are getting very, very old. We would like to move to electronic textbooks for students. So many wonderful possibilities there. But we can't because we don't have the budget to do that," she says.
The Commissioners have been adamant about keeping maintenance of effort funding in fy 2015, but Dr. Alban says she will continue to fight for her budget. "We have to advocate for what is right for the school system, and to meet the needs of the system," she says.
The Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the school system's budget on May 6th at Oakdale High beginning at 6:00 PM.