Close Menu
Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Letter to the Editor

Board of ed. budget should be dynamic


Last week’s article “Money found to fund Worcester County summer school program,” has definitely stirred up some responses.  The headline accomplished the goal of grabbing the reader’s attention. The headline uses “money found,” which implies it was lost or missing. But the funds were neither lost nor missing.

The budget process for the school system involves many variables, but first and foremost, it must be dynamic. That is to say, the budget must allow room for the school to meet the changing needs of the students it serves.  A school system budget must also never be in a deficit. Those two requirements alone mean that when creating a school budget, you must build in a reasonable surplus.

In order for a surplus to occur or be built into a budget, revenue received must be greater than anticipated or expenditures incurred must be lower than planned. When creating a budget, conservatively planning use of both measures is prudent. Both practices would enable enough wiggle room to meet changes and fluctuating demands and situations that a school system could encounter. Furthermore, it’s important for categories that may experience variableness to be given a conservative measure of deviation, so that necessary expenditures are not relying on a revenue source that has too much fluctuation.

This topic came up at the county commissioners meeting, where it was discussed that a few revenue categories of the BOE budget were experiencing higher actual revenues than the budget showed were expected.  This is part of the conservative, reasonable surplus. This wasn’t something that is a surprise.  In fact, at the end of previous fiscal years, the BOE has informed the County Commissioners of the total surplus amount and asked to use it for identified needs.  It was only last year where this practice deviated, and the Commissioners requested the surplus not be used to fund Summer Academy for FY24 as requested, but to be returned and put towards OPEB.

The identification of this current year surplus, which amounts to approximately 0.16% of the FY24 budget, is essentially reallocating the money ahead of the FY24 close out.

I’m ecstatic that Summer Academy will take place this year, even if it is a trimmed down and smaller staffed version. Even if this is just a Band-Aid for this current year and doesn’t address a full return to a robust Summer Academy program, I’m glad the surplus has been reallocated ahead of year end in order to address this now.

However, the handling of this has left a bad taste in my mouth.

The point was hammered that WCPS BOE has under budgeted revenue.  And yes, revenue did exceed the budgeted amounts in a few categories by approximately $200-$300k total. I already spoke to understanding why such a conservative budget for variable revenue categories may result in a fiscally sound and reasonable surplus.  Yet, I can’t help but draw comparison to the County General Fund budget for FY23 which had under budgeted revenue by $27 million.  I find that instead of understanding and working together for a solution, this is being used as another weapon for the commissioners to undermine the authority and duty of the BOE.  I find it interesting there wasn’t a mention of $27 million being “found” in the county general fund revenues for FY23 and nor did I hear a call for better budgeting practices and transparency. Or even when the County General Fund’s excess revenue for FY23 exceeded the budgeted amount by $19M and the County General fund balance grew another $10 million.

This wasn’t a nefarious or negligent act. And I wish what I had seen from my commissioners and county government was a collaborative discussion with the BOE and WCPS leadership if they wished for this current year surplus to be allocated before the end of the fiscal year. Unfortunately, that’s not what I heard.

I heard politics take the lead over what is best for our students and community. I heard the creation of another justification for providing MOE for FY25.  I heard another crack in the working relationship between the county commissioners and WCPS BOE. And the only ones that will suffer from these continued actions are the students, teachers, and community.

Kate Hulme