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Superintendent Presents 2020–2021 Operating Budget Proposal

January 10th, 2020

Superintendent Michael J. Martirano presented his proposed operating budget for the Howard County Public School System fiscal year 2020–2021 (FY 2021) during a presentation to the Board of Education on Thursday, January 9, 2020. The Board will now hold a series of public hearings and work sessions before submitting the Board’s Requested Budget to the County Executive.

The budget proposal describes the funding needed to maintain educational services while accounting for enrollment growth, fund negotiated salary increases and address severe understaffing in special education. It reflects the school system’s commitment to fiscal responsibility by fully funding health care costs and reducing the Health Fund deficit, finding savings and efficiencies in all programs, and seeking budget-neutral means to accelerate the system’s diversity, equity and inclusion work.

The proposal totals $964.1 million and represents an increase of $62.7 million, or 7% over the FY 2020 budget. Of the total, $670.4 million is requested from the county, an increase of $63.2 million, which includes $43.8 million above the Maintenance of Effort funding formula plus a one-time request of $9.0 million to reduce the Health Fund deficit. Also included are $277.8 million in anticipated funding from the state and $8.0 million in federal and other funding support. State Kirwan funding is expected to be consistent with the $8.7 million received in FY 2020.

Martirano noted the challenges of sustaining quality educational service levels in a fiscal environment where growth in education funding does not keep pace with the growing costs for providing public education. “Although both the county and state have increased funding over the last two fiscal years, the cost for the educational quality that we value as a community, and the amount of revenue required to pay for it, have fallen out of balance.”

Howard County is among Maryland’s fastest-growing counties, and significant annual enrollment growth is expected to continue for the next several years. The proposal identifies the funding required for the school system to maintain existing service levels while accommodating the projected addition of 773 students next year and keeping class sizes within target ratios.

The school system’s commitment to equity is underscored throughout Martirano’s proposal. “Our overall strategy is anchored by our operating budget, capital budget, Health Fund deficit elimination and our school boundary adjustment process. These four arenas are developed in alignment, and work together to fulfill the imperative of equity embedded in our Strategic Call to Action,” he stated.

The FY 2021 budget proposal book enhances the connection between the budget and the goals and priorities detailed in the Strategic Call to Action. All divisional and budget program pages include details on how each program implements “equity in action,” with special emphasis on how programs and services provide equitable support for students.

The budget proposal includes $24.7 million to fulfill negotiated increases to appropriately compensate the school system’s nearly 8,800 staff members. “In an increasingly competitive market, our compensation package must attract and retain highly qualified staff. At the same time, while our staff are exceptionally dedicated, they are strained from striving to meet students’ escalating needs,” Martirano said.

Special education is a priority of the budget proposal. A $15.1 million investment for special education includes 216.8 new staff positions, including teachers, paraeducators, student assistants and related service providers; as well as nonpublic placement tuition, intervention services and other costs to support a projected increase of 299 students receiving these services.

The accrued $39.2 million Health Fund deficit has strained HCPSS finances for several years, and is the result of decisions made prior to Martirano’s tenure to underfund staff health care costs in favor of educational service and support enhancements. He outlined the school system’s plan for eliminating the deficit by year end FY 2022 through use of one-time fund balance and savings realized in FY 2020, a request for one-time support from county government, and the generation of continued budgetary savings by HCPSS.

The complete budget proposal and Martirano’s budget presentation are posted online. The website serves as the primary source of complete and updated information on the FY 2021 budget planning process, and provides one-stop access to the Superintendent’s full proposal and related documents, overviews of the budget process and the Health Fund deficit, opportunities for public input, and answers to frequently asked questions. The site will be continually updated throughout the budget process.

The Board will hold public hearings on the proposed budget at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 16 and Tuesday, January 28. Work sessions will be held on January 14, 21, 28 and 30, and February 5, with an inclement weather date on February 6. All work sessions begin at 1 p.m.

The Board is scheduled to adopt its budget request on Thursday, February 13 at 3 p.m., and to approve the final FY 2021 Operating and Capital Budgets and FY 2021–2025 Capital Improvement Program on Thursday, May 28 at 3 p.m. All Board of Education hearings, work sessions and meetings will be held at the Department of Education, 10910 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City, and streamed live on the HCPSS website.