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HCPSS Acting Superintendent Stresses Dignity, Compassion and Respect During FY 2025 Operating Budget Preview

January 12th, 2024

Howard County Public School System Acting Superintendent William Barnes presented a preview of his proposed operating budget for the HCPSS fiscal year 2024-2025 (FY 2025) to the Board of Education on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The full proposed operating budget will be presented at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 18, and can be viewed live or on-demand on the HCPSS website, and in Howard County on Comcast channel 95 or Verizon channel 42.

The FY 2025 budget proposal totals $1.13 billion, representing an increase of $25 million, or 2.3% over FY 2024. The proposed budget seeks to balance a $103 million dollar gap stemming from a $32.1 million deficit from previously utilized one-time funds and $71 million in mandated and priority expenditures. The expenditures are largely driven by employee compensation, health insurance, transportation and Blueprint for Maryland’s Future costs. The proposed budget also includes a reduction of $46.6 million, which will impact Central Office positions, non-mandated academic programs and other services. In total, the budget will eliminate 348 currently funded positions.

Tone and Tenor of the FY 2025 Operating Budget Process

Mr. Barnes stressed the importance of leading during this process with dignity, compassion and respect as HCPSS will address a significant budget deficit with programmatic and position reductions that will impact many current staff members.

“A significant portion of our budget is staff and we cannot address the structural financial challenges without impacting that group. While we have looked at vacant and expected-to-be vacated positions, occupied positions will be impacted,” stated Barnes. “The next step in this process will be the extraordinarily difficult conversations with impacted staff. How we lead during this time will be critical in setting the tone and tenor for how we move through this process together. We want to be very intentional about how we inform staff of the impact on their positions before that information is public.”

A New Approach for Budget Development

The Acting Superintendent also discussed the significant shift in how the Superintendent’s Proposed Budget was developed, noting that continued collaboration between the Board, County leaders, and HCPSS staff and bargaining units will be critical. This year’s budget development process differed from prior years when the superintendent’s proposed budget was driven by maintaining non-mandated programs and services and aspiring to close the gap between the current and ideal staffing necessary for programs and services.

As a result of feedback from Board members, Howard County Council members and the Howard County Executive, HCPSS shifted its budget strategy to bring forward a proposal that was more closely aligned with last year’s funding increase and recent trends in funding data. 

Division leaders and budget office staff met regularly for nearly four months to review every area possible to find ways to shift, reduce or eliminate services and programs. This included a thorough examination of Central Office functions, current non-school-based vacancies and other opportunities for reductions available. The budget office also analyzed all non-personnel Central Office expenditures to identify savings. The proposed budget will demonstrate the elimination of all mileage stipends for Central Office staff.

“Our focus over the past several months has been to bring forward a balanced budget option now rather than waiting until the end of the budget cycle to engage in the emotionally charged, very difficult decision-making process,” Barnes said. “This allows the Board and staff more time to consider the realities that exist and ways to develop collaborative solutions. It also provides our staff and community with more information now so they can participate in the process fully, and our staff who may be impacted can prepare for their future accordingly.” 

The Acting Superintendent’s budget proposal preview and the timeline for the remainder of the process are available online.