ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball released the following statement in response to the Howard County Public School System’s (HCPSS) proposed Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) budget by Superintendent Michael Martirano:

No priority is more important in Howard County than creating the best teaching and learning environment for all through an excellent public school system, and our community has always come together to achieve that goal.

The funding plan we secured for the current school year (FY23) contained the largest single-year education increase in at least two decades, with $84 million more in resources from State and Local sources. That commitment gave our teachers starting salaries that are the highest in the Baltimore-Washington region, while also funding 150 new special education teachers and more. We are proud of that historic commitment, but always communicated those increases of that size were unique.

Additionally, after inheriting an HCPSS Health Fund Deficit that grew into nearly $40 million by FY19, we worked collaboratively to face the daunting challenge of eliminating this deficit, met it head on, and resolved the issue jointly. Today, there is a surplus in the fund. Our success demonstrated our shared commitment to being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars and preserving the fiscal health of our school system.

Our historic funding is in addition to the massive infusion of cash the school system received from both the Federal and State governments during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of October 31, 2022, HCPSS had been awarded 38 grants totaling $123.2 million in COVID-19 relief funds. 

The Howard County Board of Education, Superintendent Michael Martirano, our educators, and I share the same goals: 

  • Robust salaries that reflect how much we value our educators; 
  • Support for special education;
  • A commitment to reading and other core classes;
  • A focus on safety; and 
  • Fulfilling the requirements of the state Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. 

In the annual county budget, public education receives more funding than any other area, yet there are many other critical needs that demand investment, from public safety to environmental protection and sustainability, health and human services, public works, technology, and resiliency, and more.

The proposed public school County funding increase of $111.9 million is unfortunately unattainable and unrealistic at a time when enrollment remains significantly below pre-pandemic levels, and when there are so many competing priorities in many areas. By way of comparison, the average annual actual revenue increase of the entire county budget, to support all services of the county, in the five years prior to the pandemic was $36.7 million.

Our commitment to education is unwavering. During our first four years in office, county public education spending increased by an average of 3.4%, which is 31% higher than the average of the 10 prior years. The proposal of a 16.6% increase is an appealing wish-list but is not a serious exercise in budgeting or planning given the resources or capacity of our taxpayers.

I am committed to working closely with Superintendent Martirano, our BOE, and our educators to make sure as many resources as possible go to education, while the needs of all other public services are fulfilled. 

This process is never easy, but through cooperation and dialogue, we will achieve a result we can be proud of to ensure all our students and educators receive the best support within our means.

Calvin Ball
Howard County Executive
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