Wicomico Schools Continue Push For Pre-K Funding

The Wicomico Board of Education (BOE) is asking Wicomico County for an additional $5.7 million above the $43.7 million already included at maintenance of effort (MOE), to “establish universal pre-K, improve the graduation rate, and attract and retain a strong workforce,” according to The Dispatch.

School Superintendent Donna Hanlin pointed out to the County Council at a work session this week that nearly 76 percent of students in Wicomico County are considered an at-risk population. Universal pre-K would benefit a significantly large part of the community, she argued. From The Dispatch:

“We need to be working with these students as early as we possibly can,” she said.

School officials said they are asking for $1.3 million in the coming fiscal year to launch the first phase of its pre-K initiative within existing facility space. In the future, they said the school system would seek an additional $3.2 million to install modular buildings that will house pre-K classes. ….

Wednesday’s work session with the school board and other departments was just one of many scheduled in the coming week. The fiscal year 2019 budget will be adopted in June.

In County Executive Bob Culver’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget introduction, he states:

The recurring BOE request of $5,704,383 is over MOE and can only be funded through a property mil rate increase of 8.46 cents or by cutting other core services by that amount which isn’t feasible.

The $3,200,000 request for Pre K modular buildings should not be financed because of the likely short term use (certainly less than a 20‐year amortization period). Therefore, it requires use of fund balance or additional property taxes (another 5.35 cents). Increasing the use of fund balance isn’t a recommended course of action.

Funding the entire BOE request through property taxes would require a 13.81 cent increase (14.7%) in our mil rate elevating it to $1.078. That would result in the fifth highest mil rate in the State levied on the 18th lowest property base.

The proposed budget of $151.4 million focuses on “Wicomico County’s core service needs: Public safety and health, education and infrastructure.” It proposes no property tax rate increases, but does tap into fund balance. General Fund debt service for fiscal 2019 is $14.7 million, or 10.4% of new General Fund revenue.  General Fund proposed appropriations include 41 percent for education, 36 percent for public safety and health, and 11 percent for general government services. The budget proposes that eligible employees receive a 2 percent salary increase.