Queen Anne’s County Schools Face $5.3M Budget Cut

According to an article published in The Star Democrat, Queen Anne’s County Commissioners have indicated that they will be unable to fund the school system at the FY11 level ($48 million) as required by the state’s maintenance of effort law. Facing an estimated $5.3 million budget cut, Queen Anne’s County school system has proposed to eliminate 45 positions and cut funding for various programs countywide to absorb the deficit.

Central office staff presented information regarding proposed staff reductions and other cuts following indications from county commissioners that they will fund schools at $4.5 million below the $48 million maintenance of effort level mandated by state law. As a result, the state, which requires that counties give schools the same per-pupil allocation as the previous year, would withdraw an additional $816,000 that the school system would otherwise receive.

…Superintendent Carol Williamson and Financial Officer Robin Landgraf listed cuts to staff that included 20 classroom teachers as well as other instructional personnel in addition to reductions in pre-kindergarten and elementary guidance services, elimination of sports funding and late buses, increases in fees paid by day care and parks and recreation programs that use school facilities, three furlough days, changes in negotiated agreements and other reductions.

Since salaries and instruction make up the vast majority of school funding, officials were forced to list teaching staff reductions, Landgraf said. Sixteen teacher positions in the schools would be eliminated, saving $1.2 million in salaries and benefits, according to the proposal. Four pre-k teachers and four pre-k assistants would also lose their positions, with the schools cutting services back to only serve the low-income students it is mandated to serve at the pre-k level and thereby achieving projected savings of $415,000.

Officials consulted with schools staff, reviewed projected enrollment for the coming year and attempted to make reductions that would be equitable across the 15-school system, according to Landgraf.

Enrichment staff serving gifted and talented students are not at every school and therefore 3.6 existing positions costing $248,000 would be eliminated, Landgraf said.

Two school assistants that are unique to Kent Island Elementary School would also be eliminated.

Other staff reductions or changes and the savings that they would generate included in the proposal are eight computer lab assistant positions at the elementary schools ($257,000), two guidance positions ($140,000), four library positions ($194,000), one central office position ($125,000) and one school administrator ($100,000).

Switching to a “pay to play” method of sports funding would have students’ families fund their children’s participation and save an estimated $730,000. Each sport for an individual student would require about $400 in funding, Landgraf said, but officials hope that a sliding payment scale can be instituted based on a family’s income.

The school board which currently waives fees for the use of its facilities by day care and recreation programs, would save an additional $200,000 by increasing those charges, Landgraf estimated.

Three furlough days would save $750,000.

An additional $300,000 in savings could be achieved by renegotiating health care coverage offered to employees and renegotiating the board’s contract with bus drivers. These items were reviewed in closed session prior to the April 27 work session.

Landgraf said the proposal is far from final. “This is just a list,” Landgraf said. “We haven’t gotten any commitment from our board members” to approve these reductions.

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