Washington Commissioners Review Budget Proposal, Focus on Safer Schools

washington countyThe Washington County Board of Commissioners have reviewed the county administration’s proposed $229 million operating budget. The budget is an increase of 3.37 percent, or $7.5 million, over the fiscal 2018 budget.

The school system faces a $1 million gap, reports Herald-Mail Media:

[C]ounty schools would receive $98.3 million, an increase of about $1.3 million over the current year’s budget. The increase covers a slight increase in enrollment and the county’s “low-effort” designation for past maintenance-of-effort funding hikes.

However, the nearly $276 million spending plan that the Washington County Board of Education approved in February sought $99.3 million from the county, creating a $1 million deficit that could require cuts before the new budget year begins July 1.

The Commissioners have added $230,000 to staff’s proposed operating budget for the school system – the cost of two pre-kindergarten teachers and two assistants, reports Herald-Mail. In addition, they added $1 million in capital funds for security improvements to the schools, after hearing a report from the County’s new school safety task force:

The task force, formed in April, is made up of county, schools and law enforcement officials. It has met weekly to review current safety measures and estimate costs for further improvements. …

Other security improvements, such as hiring more school-resource officers, do not appear to be in the cards for the coming fiscal year in light of the commissioners’ latest budget discussion. … The first-year cost to hire and train a new school-resource officer is about $134,000, considering salary, benefits, training, a vehicle and equipment. The recurring operational cost is almost $70,000.

The County’s formal public budget hearing is scheduled for May 15 at 5:30pm at Hagerstown Community College’s Kepler Theater.