Bill Barnes, acting superintendent for the Howard County Public School System, said his proposed plan to cut 348 staff positions to help balance the school’s Fiscal 2025 budget would increase class sizes by two students at all levels.

Barnes delivered his budget proposal to the Board of Education on Jan. 18, presenting details regarding rising costs and revenue declines.

With mandated and priority expenditures amounting to $71.7 million and a $32.1 million projected decrease in revenues, Barnes said the school system faces a $103.8 million shortfall.

“Our challenges are not unlike what the state and other school districts in the state are facing,” Barnes said, citing reliance on one-time funding for several years as a contributing factor that delayed difficult budget decisions that must now be made.

Formulas that determine state and county funding, which account for more than 95% of operating revenues, are not keeping pace with the costs they support, he added.

“Maintenance of effort funding is declining due to decreasing enrollment,” he said, at a time when health insurance costs and mandates in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future are increasing and will continue to increase in outlying years.

The proposed fiscal 2025 budget for HCPSS amounts to $1.13 billion, representing a $25.1 million or 2.3% increase above fiscal 2024. The figure includes $71.7 million in new costs and 133 new positions, slightly less than half of which are tied to pre-Kindergarten expansion requirements mandated by the Blueprint. The majority of remaining positions are tied to special education.

Legal mandates include $3 million and 56 new positions for pre-K expansion, $3.5 million for instructional technology funding, $2.1 million for National Board Certification pay, $200,000 for college and career readiness, and $31,446 for workforce development.

The school system has seen a $9 million contractual increase in student transportation costs, Barnes said, along with increases of $2.9 million for benefits related to new positions, $18.6 million for health insurance, and $1.1 million for other insurance costs.

Proposed reductions of 246 school-based positions reflect $25.6 million in cuts, while non-school-based reductions of 102 positions amount to $22 million.

Barnes informed the Board that administrators have already met with staff known to be impacted by the proposed budget and would begin to engage groups of potentially impacted employees – mostly school-based staff – to determine which employees from these groups would actually be impacted.