Superintendent presents BCPS budget proposal
Thursday, 23 January 2014 14:20

$1.38 billion in school spending recommended

by Nicole Rodman

    Last Tuesday, Dr. S. Dallas Dance, superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS), presented his proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2015 (FY2015).
    Dance’s budget proposal, outlined during a meeting of the county Board of Education, totals $1.38 billion, an increase of $72.4 million (5.5 percent) over the previous year.
    In his presentation, Dance emphasized the fact that since 2008, the number of students attending county schools has grown by 4.6 percent. This trend is expected to continue.
    In addition, since the 2002-2003 school year, the number of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals has climbed 60 percent, while the number of homeless students has risen 222 percent.
   

In an effort to address the needs of a growing school system, the budget proposal includes funding for nearly 90 new school-based staff positions, 4 more school counselors and 15 new staff members to transport homeless and special education students.
    The budget also includes a staffing request for the new Mays Chapel Elementary School, as well as start-up costs for a new elementary school to be built in the northwestern part of the county.
    The FY2015 budget request also includes $4 million for the installation of wireless networks in classrooms and $2.1 million to go toward the school system’s digital conversion plan.
    Under the digital conversion plan — called  STAT (Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow), BCPS plans to add more technology to classrooms, including laptops and web cameras for staff and digital learning devices for each student.
    In what Dance characterized as an effort to target student achievement, the budget proposal also calls for $1 million to expand pre-kindergarten programs and $1 million to develop accelerated mathematics programming for students.
    According to Dance, these budget increases are necessary to address the needs of today’s students.
    “Baltimore County’s schools have been served well for much of the past decade by our funding authorities, but as we plan for more than 5,000 new students projected for the next decade, and as we resolve to provide for them a truly 21st century learning environment, the time has come to be bold,” Dance explained, adding, “The time has come to invest in our children once again.”
    The proposed budget also addresses school safety concerns. In the wake of the August 2012 shooting at Perry Hall High School, county officials vowed to beef up security in all public schools.
    To that end, the new budget proposal calls for $3.2 million for school security improvements.
    The largest portion of the proposed FY2015 budget, nearly 85 percent, is alloted for staff salaries, wages and benefits.
    Dance’s budget calls for $22 million in increases to employee health and retirement benefits and $14.1 million for salary increments.
    In addition, the budget allots $24.2 million for salary adjustments for prospective bargaining unit adjustments.
    In all, $1.17 billion of the total $1.38 billion budget proposal is alloted for staff salaries, wages and benefits.
    For her part, Abby Deytin, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County (TABCO) is content with the proposed budget.
    While she cautioned that she had not yet had time to review the budget fully, Deytin noted that TABCO leadership was “very pleased with many of the things that were in the budget.”
    The budget was set to be discussed during a public hearing before the School Board on Jan. 21 at West Towson Elementary School.
    The School Board will likely vote on the budget at its Feb. 11 meeting. The budget will be forwarded to Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz by March 1 for review and adjustment.
    Once approved by Kamenetz, the budget will then go before the Baltimore County Council for final approval.