UPPER MARLBORO – Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) is asking the county council to add $36 million to its fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget to help it meet all of its costs.
The school system met with the Prince George’s County Council’s Health, Education and Human Services Committee on May 8 to discuss the PGCPS budget. The discussions are part of the council’s process of analyzing County Executive Rushern Baker, III’s proposed budget before passing its own.
While the budget meetings with PGCPS typically center on how funds are spent and where changes can be made, this year the school system came to the meeting prepared to ask for more money than Baker proposed.
“This is a request to the council to consider adding back to the executive’s proposed budget for the school system,” said Raymond Brown, the chief financial officer for PGCPS. “An additional $12 million of the board’s fund balance… and an additional $36 million in county funds for a total of $48 million.”
Brown said the school system is not only asking for more money from the council itself but also asking to use $12 million of its fund balance to pay for some of the costs PGCPS is looking at in 2018 to serve its 133,000 students.
PGCPS currently has a $98.73 million fund balance with $41.2 million readily available for use, said Inez Claggett, the senior legislative auditor for the county government.
This ask did not come without thought, though, said Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell. The county executive and his financial team had asked the school system to reallocate $27 million of its funds to serve other purposes. Maxwell and Brown said they, however, could only identify $21 million in funds that could be moved around for other purposes.
“The county executive’s proposal reduced our budget request by $97 million,” he said. “We sent the entire request to the county executive and in our meetings with him and his meetings with other agencies and everything, he made decisions that left us short. We’re asking respectfully that the council restore $36 million.”
In addition, Baker’s budget made heavy suggestions on how the school system’s money should be used, asking that $4 million of the system’s budget be used to fund the county executive’s graduation initiative.
Despite the school system asking for more money, several members of the council’s committee pointed out the large amount of money PGCPS already receives. The school system accounts for 60.8 percent of the total county budget, according to the county’s office of management and budget, and the county council has a history of funding the school system beyond the maintenance of effort, otherwise known as the amount they legally must provide.
“The county executive’s FY2018 proposed budget for the board of education totals ($1.92 billion), an increase of $39,093,400, or 2 percent over the approved budget for FY2017. The FY2018 maintenance of effort requirement is $709,084.213,” Claggett wrote to the committee in a memo. “The proposed county contribution to fund the proposed budget is $738,631,200.”
That amount exceeds the maintenance of effort by more than $29 million and represents a 5 percent increase over the 2017 approved budget. That amount of money will help fund the expansion of language programs, pre-kindergarten and the international schools as well as will pay for 37 additional full time positions at charter schools, additional background checks, upgraded technology, compensation negotiations, and a student health record database.
Still, the amount of funding is well below the $2.05 billion ask made by PGCPS. Clagget noted this in her presentation, and so did Brown when he talked about what the school system will not be able to fund.
Some losses in the reduced budget include cultural training for employees, a dedicated communications specialist for the board of education, the expansion of the healthy start breakfast program, increased supports in numeracy and literacy, expansion of the teacher mentorship program, student exam fees, and increased stipends for National Board Certified Teachers.
Recommendations from the Student Safety Task Force, created in the wake of the child pornography scandal at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School, will also be off the table if the current proposed budget is approved.
“We won’t be able to do that at this funding level,” Brown said.
And even though PGCPS is asking for an additional $36 million and permission to use $12 million in fund balance, those additional funds would not cover any of those losses. Instead, that additional budget money would be used to pay for mandatory costs that will not be covered by the executive’s budget.
Some examples of those costs include additional building services and emergency maintenance costs. It would also include increased insurance benefits for employees and “other post-employment benefits” known as OPEB. However, the additional money would only partially fund those items.
“Without the additional $36 million funding from the county, we will not be able to fund the maintenance initiatives and address the maintenance emergencies,” Brown said. “Those items rose up at the highest priority in our budget process.”