Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) Superintendent George Arlotto recommended to the Board of Education a $1.6 billion Fiscal Year 2023 operating budget on December 15, representing the first phase of a multi-year plan to move funding from state and federal COVID-related grants to the school system’s operating budget, provides staffing to reduce class sizes, and provides compensation increases for all employees.
In his eighth budget address as superintendent, Dr. Arlotto recommended $23.8 million in shifts of federal and state grants to the school system’s permanent operating budget. The funding includes $4.2 million for 70.4 existing special education positions and another $5.1 million for 60 existing positions for the AACPS Virtual Academy, which launched this year. It also includes more than $6.2 million for temporary teaching assistants and long-term substitutes, $4.6 million for a portion of the leases for technology equipment acquired throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and $2.1 million in contracts for enhanced preventative maintenance services for school HVAC systems.
Another $24.8 million in Arlotto’s recommendation is allocated to the first wave of funding dedicated to programs required by the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a piece of state legislation aimed at creating more opportunities for students, expanding career and technical education programs, and bolstering salaries for teachers and other educators.
Funding directly related to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future requirements includes $5 million for mandated compensation increases for National Board Certified Teachers (NBCT) and $3.7 million for 54.5 positions necessary to convert 17 half-day prekindergarten programs to full day.
“We should not fund these blueprint-focused areas at the expense of other programs,” Arlotto said. “They are critically needed investments designed – COVID or not – to help us reach the summit of this climb.”
Inclusive of the NBCT enhancements, Arlotto’s recommendation contains $55.7 million for employee compensation increases. That is sufficient, subject to negotiations with employee bargaining units, for a 4 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for all employees, a compensation placeholder equivalent to step movement for eligible employees, and the final phase of back steps or step equivalents for eligible employees in Unit II through Unit VI who missed those increases due to economic constraints in Fiscal Year 2016. The expected ratification of the recent Unit I tentative agreement will resolve that issue for those employees.
Part of Arlotto’s COLA recommendation will go toward funding a Blueprint-mandated compensation increase of 10 percent for teachers by 2024. AACPS has already allocated 3 percent of that total.
“I believe it is prudent to take a bigger bite of this apple this year for two reasons: First, we need to provide as much as we can for our employees as soon as we can. Second, we should not push any more of this cost into future years than we absolutely have to,” Arlotto said. “Doing so may imperil needed funding should the fiscal picture become more uncertain.”
Staffing To Meet Student Needs
To continue to address the social and emotional needs of students, Arlotto included $4.4 million for 36 positions, including 11 assistant principals, 6.6 teachers and aides for an alternative education elementary program, seven school counselors, 4.4 school psychologists, three school social workers, and two Pupil Personnel Workers.
Additionally, Arlotto’s recommendation includes funding for 122 teachers to reduce class sizes in the first of a three-year plan; 93.6 positions in special education to address the increased complexity of student needs; 30.3 positions to address the needs of English language learners; 19.1 positions in the final phase of staffing for Crofton High School; and 7.5 positions to expand the elementary Triple-E program to most schools in the Old Mill cluster.
Approximately 92.4 percent of the new positions in Arlotto’s recommendation interact with students on the daily basis.
Student Transportation Issues
To help address ongoing issues with bus driver shortages and student transportation, Arlotto included in his recommendation $3.4 million to provide approximately a 10 percent COLA for contracted bus drivers and aides. There is an additional $2.3 million for 32 buses to address existing bus overcrowding issues identified by Prismatic Services Inc., the consultant hired by the Board of Education to facilitate changes in school start times next year
Arlotto’s recommendation also includes $575,000 for drivers, aides, and vans to begin to transport students to nonpublic settings as allowable under state regulations that remain under review.
Capital Budget Recommendation
Arlotto’s $193 million FY2023 capital budget recommendation contains $122.9 million in construction funding for six major school projects: Quarterfield Elementary, Hillsmere Elementary, Rippling Woods Elementary, Old Mill West High School, West County Elementary and Old Mill Middle School South.
It also includes $5.3 million for design of a new Center of Applied Technology – North to be built on the current Old Mill High School campus, and $10 million for classroom additions at Southgate Elementary School and Crofton Middle School.
There is also $30 million for building systems renovations, and $3.5 million for athletic stadium improvements in the capital budget recommendation.
Budget Hearings, Workshop
The Board of Education has scheduled two public hearings and a public workshop on Arlotto’s budget recommendation. Public hearings will be held on Tuesday, January 4, 2022, at Old Mill High School, and Thursday, January 6, 2022, in the Board Room at the Parham Building in Annapolis. Both hearings begin at 6:00pm, with testimony limited to two minutes per person.
Testimony at the January 4 hearing will be in-person only, with those wishing to testify able to sign up at Old Mill High School beginning at 5:00pm and concluding when the hearing begins at 6:00pm. There will be no online registration to testify at the January 4 hearing.
Testimony at the January 6 hearing will be virtual and in person. Those wishing to testify virtually may sign up at a link that will be made public here. Registration will close at 11:59pm on Wednesday, January 5.
Those wishing to testify in person at the January 6 hearing may sign up at the Parham Building beginning at 5:00pm and concluding when the hearing begins at 6:00pm. The board will hear virtual testimony first at the January 6 hearing.
Speakers may only testify at one hearing.
The board will also hold a public workshop on Arlotto’s budget recommendation at 6:00pm on Tuesday, January 18, in the Board Room at the Parham Building.
No budget-related public testimony will be taken at the workshop or at the February 16 meeting at which the board is scheduled to approve its budget request. Should the board offer amendments at the February 16 meeting, testimony will be taken on the amendments only. The board has also scheduled time to meet on February 17, if it is necessary to complete work on its budget request.
The January 6 public hearing and the January 18 public workshop will be broadcast live on AACPS-TV and on AACPS’ YouTube channel. The January 4 public hearing will not be broadcast or streamed online.
Arlotto’s full Fiscal Year 2023 operating and capital budget recommendations, as well as a text of his budget address and a Budget in Brief document, are posted online at www.aacps.org/fy2023budget.