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By Caitlyn Freeman
The Board of Education (BOE) for Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) adopts a $172 million capital budget and a $1.27 billion operating budget for fiscal year (FY) 2020 during the meeting of the board on Monday, February 25th.
The BOE first deliberated and amended Dr. George Arlotto’s, Superintendent for AACPS, recommended $172 million capital budget, which is a break down of the school system’s long term investments.
The only posed amendment for the capital budget was from board Vice President and Student Member of the Board (SMOB), Josie Urrea.
“I motion to add $130,000 for playground equipment at schools,” said Urrea. Without any board discussion or public comment in regards to the posed amendment, it passed 9-0.
They then voted 9-0 to adopt of Arlotto’s capital budget, including the addition of $130,000, for FY 2020.
After approving the capital budget, the members began discussing Arlotto’s suggested $1.26 billion operational budget, which is a break down of the school system’s finances for a year.
According to Terry Gilleland, BOE President, over 600 questions that included budget research and follow up were posed to the AACPS staff who worked on the budget. He added that there were a record number of amendments for the operating budget.
“So, the public is aware, we are going to have a couple of procedural motions momentarily, but we have 80 amendments tonight. Eight-Zero. I think by way of comparison, last year we had nine or ten. So, in advance of us beginning, I just want to say it’s going to be a lengthy night,” Gilleland said before the process began.
After a few motions to adjust the order in which the way a few of the posed amendments were presented, including the withdrawal of amendment five, the members proceeded to address the first amendment.
The amendment would allocate a compensation placeholder of $16 million for Unit One employees (teachers) which would total $4.1 million per year for the next four fiscal years.
“This amendment is definitely about the teachers. It’s about making the teacher’s whole over the next four years and utilizing money to negotiate effectively. It is in no way meant to discredit or disregard the other employees in our system, but as we are budgeting, we must look at where our crisis is and accommodate that first,” Candace Antwine, who was the first to speak on the amendment, said.
She added that the amendment is a $16 million plan that includes recruitment, retention for unit one employees who are retiring or those who are retired to make-up the gap in payment that they’ve faced.
A few members of the board voiced their concern with the posed amendment stating that it would be unfair to other employee units.
“So if we were to put 16 million dollars into this year’s budget I do not see why we would continue having staff, who have been here pouring their life stories out to us, why we would continue to leave many of them behind when we would have the opportunity to restore all of the steps at this time so that everyone is paid their market value for their work,” said Melissa Ellis, member of the BOE.
Urrea also spoke about her opinion towards amendment one. “I will not be voting for any amendment that does not include all the units because I believe that yes, teachers are extremely important, but we cannot forget about the other employees; the custodians, the teachers assistants, the facilitators that also lost those steps and I think it’s important that we compensate all employees,” said Urrea.
In response to the concerns, Antwine stated that it is the board’s job to budget for the expected and the unexpected. She explained that currently the pay gap is estimated at $12-$14 million and reiterated that receiving the additional $16 million would allow for retention, recruitment, and for the board to be able to focus on overall payment adjustments.
“So, we’re not excluding we’re just managing a concern in an incremental fashion to allow us to make good decisions with the money we’re putting forth,” said Antwine. She added that she chose to compensate the teachers first then hopes to oversee the increase the pay for the other unit’s incrementally over the next few years.
After a round of public comment and final board deliberations, the board voted 1-8, and the amendment failed.
According to the outline of the 81 posed amendments, including amendment five, located on the AACPS website, as the night continued, the members of the school board voted to include funding for additional compensation towards a “catchup” step for eligible employees from the 2009-2010 school year (amendment four), decrease board member compensation by $4,000 (amendment six), $40,000 towards funding for high school robotics clubs (amendment 52), and allocate $483,200 of the county revenue to the Food and Nutrition Services State Category to be used toward organic-based meal trays in school cafeterias in order to abide by the new county bill that prohibits the use of Polystyrene lunch trays (amendment 80).
The final vote of the night occurred when the members of the school board voted 8-0, with the absence of Eric Grannon, to adopt an amended operational budget of $1.27 billion for FY 2020.
The budget process began when Arlotto proposed his recommended capital and operating budgets for FY 2020 during the meeting of the BOE on Wednesday, December 19th. He suggested a $1.26 billion operating budget which included funding for 295.6 new positions and $35.1 million towards a compensation increase for AACPS employees which is to be divided as $7.5 million for a mid-year pay increase, $14 million to fund step increases, and $13.6 million as a compensation placeholder in case of a standard of living increase or for back steps.
Arlotto’s capital budget for FY 2020 initially included funding for multiple construction projects, such as $10 million towards the design for a new Old Mill High School and $16 million towards construction at Tyler Heights Elementary School. He also allocated $1.5 million for health and safety and $7.4 million for school security updates.
According to the AACPS website, since the announcement of Arlotto’s recommended budgets in December, the BOE members have been deliberating on the plans. They then presented their revisions and amendments during their meeting on February 25th before sending the revised version to County Executive Steuart Pittman before the March 1st due date.
After Pittman reviews the budget, he will adjust the budget as he sees fit, before sending it to the County Council by May 1st. Once the County Council receives it, they have 45 days to make any changes before submitting the final budget to the BOE for them to adopt. Before the adoption, the County Council will host a budget hearing on May 9th from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Arundel Center and another on May 13th from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at North County High School. The BOE is set to adopt the budgets for FY 2020 on June 19th.
The full list of posed amendments as well as more information about the budget process, visit http://www.aacps.org.