Officials say most of it is due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Frederick, Md (KM). The Frederick County School System heard from citizens Wednesday night during a budget forum. But unlike similar events in the past, citizens could not come in person to the School System’s headquarters and speak. They could call in and express their opinions, which would be relayed to School System officials.
Much of their comments had to do with COVID-19. “As everybody’s life has been impacted by COVID-19, our lives at FCPS have been impacted by COVID-19. And there’s some uncertainty in our revenues based upon that impact,”: said Budget Officer Heather Clabaugh.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Theresa Alban said this uncertainty has made it difficult to craft a budget. “Typically, when our Budget Office puts the budget together, they can approximate funding and the revenues that we’re going to receive pretty accurately. And as we go through the process, they’re constantly updating us and we kind of see how things are evolving,” she said. “There are a lot of things that we don’t know this year.”
Dr. Alban said the School System saw a decline in enrollments due to the pandemic, the closure of schools and the implementation of virtual learning. Along with that, some parents opted to have their child start kindergarten a year later, or to home-school their chidden until school buildings reopened. And that could affect how much revenue Frederick County Public Schools could receive from the state. “So our September 30th enrollment was a little lower than we had projected. So if our funding is based on that enrollment, we’re going to be starting in the hole when we look at our budget in January,”: she said.
September 30th is when enrollments are finalized. January is when the Governor releases his budget which could give school systems an idea on how much they’re receiving in revenue from the state.
Chief Financial Officer Leslie Pellegrino said the School System did receive about $14-million in CARES Act funding to help defray its costs. She said that money was used for such purposes as the purchase fo cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment. “We’ve used it for technology. A lot of our funding has gone to technology for our students and our teachers because that was much needed at this time,”: she said.
Despite receiving this funding, Dr. Alban said there’s not a lot of extra money floating around. “Being able to provide those kinds of services were not in our current budget, and were it not for that CARES funding, then we would have had to look at ‘what are we going to cut to make that happen,'” she said .
The CARES Act was passed in March to provide financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Alban is scheduled to release her proposed fiscal year 2022 budget on January 11th, 2021.
By Kevin McManus