The Howard County Board of Education adopted its Operating and Capital Budgets for the 2021-2022 school year (fiscal 2022) on Thursday, May 27. The operating budget totals $942.6 million, an increase of $23.9 million over fiscal 2021. The fiscal 2022 capital budget totals $90.4 million, providing continuity of funding for priority capital projects.
The fiscal 2022 operating budget maintains the school system’s focus on supporting students and the staff who are entrusted with their education and care, by maintaining existing program and service levels without reducing class sizes or staff positions. It includes funding to advance the Board’s key priorities, including addressing critical shortages in special education staffing, enhancing the staffing and focus on student mental health and well-being, and increasing staff compensation.
The $942.6 million operating budget includes $640.8 million in county funding, representing approximately $10.5 million above Maintenance of Effort, the minimum level of funding required by state law; $282.5 million from the state; and $7.4 million from federal and other sources. The budget also includes the use of $12 million of unassigned fund balance in order to fulfill obligations and advance key goals without requiring deeper impact to the classroom.
The approved fiscal 2022 operating budget maintains the school system’s commitment to sound fiscal management and cost containment while fulfilling several of HCPSS’ highest priorities:
- Addresses critical shortages in special education with the addition of 70.7 staff positions
- Accommodates enrollment changes while maintaining current class sizes with the addition of 27 pooled positions
- Enhances student well-being and mental health services through the addition of 22 student services positions, including five social workers, three pupil personnel workers, thirteen school counselors, and one school psychologist
- Enhances support for early reading instruction and to address dyslexia and other reading challenges, with the addition of 4.5 reading specialist positions and DIBELS training for staff
- Funds compensation increases for all staff
- Sustains the recent investments in technology with the addition of five positions
- Reduces the remaining Health Fund deficit by applying a $10 million, one-time county funding allocation
- Fully funds actuarial projected employee health insurance costs for the fourth consecutive year
As a result of the ongoing budget pressures in the county and state, the needs of the school system continue to outpace funding allocations, and the Board had to make difficult decisions to balance the fiscal 2022 budget. Significant savings were realized by eliminating proposed new staff positions associated with enrollment growth anticipated in the 2021-2022 school year, while increasing the number of pooled positions to allow flexibility in staffing assignments throughout the year. Notably, the adopted budget avoids any reductions in services or programs or increases in class size.
Additional savings were achieved through the use of grant funding to cover as many costs as possible for technology infrastructure and student services. HCPSS will continue to aggressively seek federal and state grant funding to accelerate learning recovery and help relieve costs resulting from the pandemic and its impact on students and schools.
The Board adopted a fiscal 2022 Capital Budget totaling $90.4 million, for costs associated with continued construction of a replacement Talbott Springs Elementary School, scheduled to open in fall 2022; continued construction of a new 13th county high school, targeted to open in fall 2023; and a renovation and addition to Hammond High School, scheduled for completion in fall 2023.
Additional funding is allocated for on-going and systemic renovations, which include replacements and upgrade of rooftops, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems at several schools, and other continued capital needs.