Frederick Schools Expect Influx of New Students Next Year, Adding to Pressure on Budget

The numbers are in: Frederick County Public Schools officials expect the district to keep expanding — almost 500 more students in the next school year, more than some of the county’s elementary schools.

According to The Frederick News-Post,

With the influx of students — a much larger projected surge than in years past — come adjustments to short- and long-term budgets and construction planning. But funding is complicated by the way it’s calculated by the county and state, which rely on outdated enrollment numbers to determine their payouts to the district.

Already, the school system must contend with continued rapid growth in pockets of the county, such as around Urbana and western Frederick. Other schools are underused, largely in northern Frederick County.

School officials anticipate 498 more students next school year.

The county and state don’t use that number, though, when they give money to the district for the coming year’s operating budget. They base their contributions on the school district’s enrollment as of September 2016.

So even if the district accounts for many more students for the next school year, it’s lagging a year behind, said Leslie Pellegrino, the district’s chief financial officer.

The school board, without taxing authority, relies primarily on the county and state for money.

Another complication comes with paying for staffing.

The district figures how many staff members it needs based on its internal projections. Since funding is based on old enrollment figures, the money it receives doesn’t always cover additional positions.

The school system initially thought it would take in only 99 more students this school year. It added more than 650. District officials still can’t fully explain the swell. As of September 2016, the district enrolls more than 41,300 students.

At the same time, the 24 school districts compete for limited state dollars for school construction at a time when many regions of Maryland continue to blossom and want to build more schools.

Some schools, too, are aged and need repairs and modernization, which are covered by the same pot of state construction money. Pellegrino gave the example of Baltimore County and Baltimore City. State officials, such as Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), have blasted those districts for lacking air conditioning in some schools.

Frederick County Public Schools have struggled to pay for new schools, particularly in the case of Butterfly Ridge Elementary School, in west Frederick, and Sugarloaf Elementary School in Urbana. They are due to open concurrently in 2018. The county had to partner with a developer to help simultaneously fund both schools.

Frederick County’s school board has set its construction priorities for the next few years, and those likely won’t change, said Beth Pasierb, a facilities planning supervisor. After the new Frederick High School is finished and the two new elementary schools open, the district plans to replace Urbana Elementary School and construct a new Rock Creek School, as well as an addition to Waverley Elementary School.

Useful Links

Frederick News-Post Article

September 2017 Enrollment Projections

Why Do Five Jurisdictions Lose $45M In Education Funds?