St. Mary’s School Board Budget: Negotiatin​g the $12 Million Black Hole

How in the world could a two million dollar gamble on health insurance rates by the elected Board of Education turn into a twelve million black hole budget deficit in only a couple months?
The two million dollar plus taken from the CareFirst estimate and previous funding levels was allocated to fund other BOE commitments like negotiated step increases for union employees.  Obviously, this helped avoid arbitration but medical bills were as high as CareFirst had predicted.  That is where the real problem begins.
Add the fiscal problems of a heavy snow year compounded with a health care refund in December that was totally uncalled for and the deficit tumbles beyond six million dollars.  And, now, the CareFirst estimate for the coming fiscal year is six million dollars over this past year’s numbers.
Would you expect the elected members of the St. Mary’s Board of Education not to adopt those higher estimates after having been berated and bullied by more belligerent members of the Board of County Commissioners?
This puts the St. Mary’s Board of Education twelve million dollars in the hole as of today.
Rather than assign blame, of which there is plenty to go around, cooler heads on our St. Mary’s Board of County Commissioners must find a reasonable funding solution that does not punish teachers, teachers’ aides, blue collar employees, or the children they educate.
Obviously, Dr. Martirano and his board members must provide an accountable plan to deal with their unprecedented deficit.  That said, our Board of County Commissioners should not allow public education to drop to rock bottom after all the positive steps that have occurred in recent years.  When over ninety percent of our public school students are graduating from high school, great strides have been made.
As I have said before, next to our prime location, the most important factor in protecting from BRAC (Base Re-alignment And Consolidation) is a good education system.
In years past, I was happy to work with students at Great Mills High School to build a record breaking electric drag racing car (Google search: Green Hornet MR2).  Today, all of us need to come together to lobby our County Commissioners to reach into the BRAC Reserve fund to protect education for jobs on both sides of the Pax River Gates.
No, we do not need to raise taxes.  But, we can use funds that were ostensibly designated to subsidize contractors and pay consultants to continue developing a new generation of locally grown engineers and well educated workers.
Bluntly speaking and placing the rhetoric aside, I admit to being in uncharted waters with this most recent challenge.  A majority of our County Commissioners have prioritized subsidized development over the long term needs of public education.
After presentation of a reasonable plan by the BOE to address and control costs is there another commissioner in addition to myself and Commissioner Danny Morris, who will reach into reserve funds to cushion the fall or is public education in St. Mary’s County destined to hit rock bottom?
Larry Jarboe – bass21292@yahoo.com
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