Harford County Public Schools Finalizes FY24 Budget Amid Local Funding Deficit, Ensures Staff Retention
HARFORD COUNTY - On Tuesday, the Harford County Board of Education finalized its fiscal year 2024 (FY24) budget. This decision comes on the heels of the Harford County Council's approval of the County Executive's proposed FY24 Harford County Budget on June 13.
The board faced the challenge of reconciling a roughly $9.3 million local funding deficit. Despite these challenges, the board confirmed that the wage package for staff would be preserved, and those wishing to continue their employment with HCPS can do so.
According to the board, several decisive actions made these positive outcomes possible. The Board increased the amount of funds drawn from the HCPS fund balance by $10 million, elevating the total fund balance usage to $15 million.
Additionally, the Board cut items newly introduced in the proposed FY24 HCPS operating budget. These cuts have allowed for the preservation of services for students. Jobs removed from the FY24 budget include roles in facilities, technology, human resources, business services, and school safety. Some teaching positions, previously funded by grants, were also eliminated from the proposed FY24 budget. Instead, these roles have been reverted to relevant grants for FY24 funding, sparing them from the operating budget for one more year.
In a press release announcing the finalized budget, HCPS expressed concern that the funding cuts will be felt in the coming years.
"The absence of these positions and supports from the FY24 operating budget is expected to have lasting impacts on the school system," the Harford County Board of Education wrote.
The Board also approved removing specific budget item requests, including software subscriptions and additional substitute costs, shifting some back to grants for another year. Requests for departmental inflationary increases were similarly excised from the budget, a move that HCPS warns could significantly affect the facilities and transportation departments due to rising operational costs.
Board President Dr. Carol Mueller emphasized the importance of community understanding and engagement with the budgeting process, highlighting the future impact of not receiving full funding this year and the associated costs of the state-mandated Blueprint.
"We are fortunate that we can balance the budget and minimize the impact on our students and staff. However, we know the implications and how future budgets will feel the repercussions of not receiving full funding this year. I implore our community to continue educating themselves on the costs associated with the state-mandated Blueprint. I encourage our families to understand how education has changed and what that means in terms of budgeting for resources that are key to our students personal and educational success," said Board President Dr. Carol Mueller.
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Sean Bulson, echoed this sentiment, acknowledging the difficulty of denying school staff funding requests and the future risks this poses to students and the school system.
"The Board of Education was faced with a herculean task. It is never easy to refuse school staff the funding for a request. We know that anything staff ask for is to support our students. Our students' futures and the future of the school system are at stake each time we discuss the budget. Please continue to advocate for our students at the local and state level. Your involvement is key to ensuring Harford County Public Schools continues to be the exemplary education system and workplace our staff have created," Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sean Bulson said.
Full details on the finalized FY24 HCPS budget will be published on the Board Budget webpage once the FY23 actual results can be incorporated into the document. According to the board, this is anticipated to occur during the summer.
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