UPPER MARLBORO – County officials are reeling after taking a deeper look into Governor Larry Hogan’s proposed state budget. County Council Chairman Mel Franklin said the “mixed bag the county received is a worse mix than we thought,” while Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell, said cuts could equate to more than 500 […]
UPPER MARLBORO – County officials are reeling after taking a deeper look into Governor Larry Hogan’s proposed state budget.
County Council Chairman Mel Franklin said the “mixed bag the county received is a worse mix than we thought,” while Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell, said cuts could equate to more than 500 teachers’ jobs.
Two weeks ago Hogan announced his proposed budget, cutting the state aid the county receives from the geographic cost of education index (GCEI) in half, resulting in a reduction of $19.7 million, according to PGCPS?Chief Financial Officer Raymond Brown, the school system’s chief financial officer. Brown also said the school system will lose out on $12.7 million as a result of Hogan freezing the per-pupil funding for the state’s Foundation program at the level for fiscal 2015. The school system will also receive $4.1 million less than the estimated after Hogan chose to delay the phase-in of the net taxable income (NTI) funding, keeping the funding at 40 percent instead of increasing it to 60 percent. In total, Brown said the school system will miss out on an extra $38 million.
“Had the governor’s proposal not made any recommendations to the Foundation program and NTI, and had the governor fully funded GCEI, the increase in state aid for Prince George’s County Public Schools for FY16 would have been $66 million, rather than the $28 million in the governor’s budget, and that’s the $38 million deduction,” Brown said.
Maxwell said he has not made any final decisions on where to make cuts because the budget process has not ended. However, he said $40 million equates to between 500 and 600 teachers.
“If I lose the people that are helping us make a difference then it is harder to make that difference,” Maxwell said of the possibility of losing teachers despite the school system’s recent announcement of record-setting graduation rates.
Brown said $40 million in cuts would also result in the average class size for elementary schools increasing from 25 students to 31 students. It could also prevent the expansion of full-day pre-K or eliminate all art, music and physical education programs in elementary schools. Other costs include not funding the second year of the school system’s collective-bargaining agreement with its unions, Brown said, or preventing the expansion of the secondary school reform programs.
All of the options for cuts are individual, Maxwell said, but they could be related. But he said he does not recommend making cuts right now because the General Assembly could decide to restore the funding for NTI and the Foundation program. In addition, Maxwell said the school system will ask the county to make up for any funding it does not receive from the state. However, Maxwell cautioned that the county faces its own financial problems.
“Their ability to make that up is certainly a big question mark,” Maxwell said. “We would hope the county can help us but I can’t guarantee that nor would I guarantee that the state is going to make up the difference.”
Franklin said the county council continues to have conversations with the governor’s office, but the proposed budget cuts as they stand have dire consequences on residents of Prince George’s County.
“First, they place an upward pressure on local jurisdictions to raise taxes in order to continue to meet our resident’s higher expectations for higher quality and improving schools,” Franklin said. “Second, they jeopardize Maryland’s economic competitiveness in preparing for the new economy. And third, they raise serious questions about whether this budget meets the constitutional test of providing an adequate education for every child in our state.”
Both Maxwell and Franklin said it will be important for the county to work with neighboring jurisdictions, particularly Montgomery County, to restore funding. Maxwell said he attended a meeting of superintendents from Maryland’s five largest districts last week, and will attend a meeting later this week with State Superintendent Lillian Lowery along with all of the other superintendents in the state.
Franklin said he has reached out to other counties, including Anne Arundel, Howard, Baltimore, Charles, Harford, Frederick and Baltimore City about creating a coalition.
“We’ve had several conversations with the leadership in those jurisdictions about coordinating strategy, and most of them are in the same boat we are in when it comes to these cuts,” Franklin said. “So we’ll have to work in tandem, in ways perhaps we haven’t in the past, to try to make sure we continue to make Maryland stronger. We’re all about creating jobs. You can’t do that if you’re cutting education. You’re going to hurt your work force and you’re going to hurt the competitiveness of your economy. So we’re all going to go to Annapolis and make that case working with our respective delegations in tandem.”
Maxwell said he remains hopeful cuts will not have to be made at all.
“We have not made final decisions because we are hoping some of this can be resolved in the legislative session in Annapolis. We are hoping to remediate some of this, all of it maybe,” Maxwell said. “…My recommendation is not to start cutting right now and wait until we actually know the bottom line. In the meantime we will work diligently to weight all of the options. Right now we are just trying to give people an idea of what these cuts could mean to us, but I am not really ready to start cutting and giving up the discussion. I would rather push it.”
Sentinel reporter Michael Sykes contributed to this report.