Employee compensation is the top priority in Superintendent Kimberly Hill’s proposed FY 2017 operating budget.
Randy Sotomayor, executive director of business and finance, presented Hill’s $352.1 million proposal Jan. 12 to the Board of Education.
“Our schools are only as good as the people who work in them, and we need to get our employees back on step,” Hill said. “To attract the best and brightest teachers to Charles County Public Schools, our salaries need to be competitive with surrounding counties.”
The school system’s employees remain behind two level increases, and failure to fund the initiative — which is equal to three longevity step/level increases — will result in employees becoming three steps behind, which could affect staff recruitment and retention.
Hill’s request, which is an increase of $17.9 million or 5.4 percent more than FY 2016, will go toward the step/level increases. At a board meeting, Hill said Charles County Public Schools have the lowest starting salary for teachers in Southern Maryland.
The county’s average teacher’s salary ranks 11th out of 24 counties in the state. Compensation for first-year teachers also lags behind neighboring counties, with the cost of spending per student at 14th in Maryland, according to the most recent data provided by the state.
The proposed budget shows a reserve for negotiations with the Education Association of Charles County and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees with step/level increases estimated to reach more than $12.3 million.
Employees did receive step/level increases in 2011 and 2015. In the FY 2017 budget, one step/level increase is estimated at more than $4.9 million and more than $7.4 million for those who are two step/levels behind. Grades and scale adjustments are assumed to be $504,000.
The school system has not provided an across-the-board cost of living since FY 2009.
Other increases include a 9.3 percent increase for health benefits of $3 million this year.
The proposed budget includes funding for the state-mandated teachers’ pension contribution and mandatory school bus replacements. State law dictates that school buses be replaced after 15 years of operation.
Additionally, the Teacher Mentor Program also will be supported. Mentoring programs are required by law in Maryland.
“The Teacher Mentor Program is vital to retaining teachers and providing professional growth opportunities for our less experienced teachers,” said Hill, who started her career in education as a high school social studies teacher. “New teachers need the chance to talk with and work with more experienced teachers to share best practices.”
The budget also includes for benefits and wages for school nurses and a 10-cent increase in school lunch prices to comply with federal price subsidy requirements will increase the cost to $2.65 for elementary students and $2.90 in middle and high school students.
The Board of Education will hold a public hearing on the budget, followed by a work session and public hearing 6 p.m. Jan. 27 with the board’s final approval on Feb. 9.
The board will submit its budget to the Charles County Commissioners Feb. 29, with the commissioners’ public hearing slated for April 20.
“Our community recognizes the value of high achieving schools for students as well as for attracting businesses to our county,” Hill said. “Fully funding the school system budget is an investment in our future.”
The board will adopt the final budget June 14.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.