County Executive Alan McCarthy announced his proposed Cecil County budget for FY 2019 about two weeks ago. I’ve said little since that press conference because I didn’t know where to start and I knew once I started I wouldn’t be stopping any time soon.
I suppose the one year honeymoon with the new county executive was fun while it lasted.
I’m an unashamed fan of the work the leadership and employees of Cecil County Public Schools have done with budgeting and cost savings over the last four years that I’ve been paying attention. Leadership has pulled multitudes of rabbits out of hats to find the funding for projects and programs that the county refused to fund and employees have tightened their belts to help the cause. (Because the cost of healthcare is one of the largest expenses any organization faces each year and, as CCPS has adapted its benefits in an effort to control costs, employees have also been asked to shoulder higher healthcare costs.)
But we can only expect so many magic tricks.
Summarizing this year’s budget process so far…
CCPS put together a budget that addressed the most pressing needs of the school system, namely 29 new positions–nearly all of which would provide direct support to students:
- 14 new teachers, most in the middle schools where class sizes are climbing
- 5 positions for social workers and psychologists to provide the services necessary to support the student population.
- 8 paraprofessionals
Keep in mind that CCPS was forced to cut over 100 jobs several years ago when the county suddenly cut funding.
Notice that pie chart at the top of this page which shows the portion of the CCPS operating budget that is spent on salaries and benefits–85%.
Small capital budget
CCPS requested the lowest amount I’ve seen in the last 4 years at $3.76 million–yet the county only funded $1.76 million and $800k of that is a multi-year contract that they have to fund!
Hmm, a difference of $2 million between the request and the proposed budget. That’s the estimated cost of the fieldhouse at Perryville High School.
I doubt it.
But I’ll talk about the fieldhouse later.
Some of the deferred projects:
- Secure entrances at Leeds, Cecilton, Elk Neck, and Holly Hall Elementary Schools–in February, county government feigned concern over these projects and I called them on it then. Based on the county’s proposed budget, I was right.
- Replacement cooling tower at Bo Manor High School
- Fieldhouse renovations at North East High School
- Track resurfacing at Elkton High School
Large capital projects
These projects include new school buildings, major renovations, and other expensive projects like new roofs and HVAC, the county’s proposed budget pushes every project except for the replacement school for Gilpin Manor Elementary which will be completed this fall and the roof replacement at Bo Manor Middle & High out an additional year or more.
Some of the deferred projects:
- Chesapeake City Elementary replacement school–requested to start in FY20 and now pushed to at least FY21–originally built in 1939!
- North East Middle School major renovations–requested to start in FY20 and now pushed out past FY23–the building is so old it feels like you’ve stepped onto the set of Grease when you walk in the door. The building has been due for renovations for over 15 years.
- Kenmore Elementary School–major renovations–requested to start in FY21, now pushed beyond FY23
This is ugly and it’s only going to get uglier.
Here’s what you can do to advocate:
- Call or email our county council members at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
- Call the council members at +1(410)996-5201
- Attend and speak at a county council meeting (Tips for speaking)
- April 17, 7 PM
- May 1
- Citizens’ Corner at 6 PM
- Council Meeting at 7 PM
- May 15, 7 PM
- Attend and speak at the public budget hearing on May 22rd at Elkton High School at 7 PM