by Genevieve Demos Kelley
In a letter dated May 25, 2017, the Prince George’s County Council transmitted an approved operating budget of $1,975,443,500 for Fiscal Year 2018 to the Board of Education. The letter also outlined approved expenditure allocations by major category.
For each expenditure category, the table below compares the approved amount for FY 2018 with both the FY 2017 estimated expenditure and the FY 2018 requested amount.
As the table shows, the approved budget of $1.975 billion represents a 2.7% increase over FY 2017 estimated expenditures. But it’s a much smaller increase than the school system asked for. The operating budget approved by the county council is $75.3 million less than the amount requested by the board of education in March.
Yet, in most of the expenditure categories, the difference between the requested budget and the approved budget is small (less than 1%), and two categories even show a significant increase over the amount in the requested budget (food services and “other instructional costs”). The $75 million shortfall is largely absorbed in the “fixed charges” category. Fixed charges expenditures are approved for $76.5 million less than was requested for FY 2018 (a reduction of 16.7%), and $57.2 million less than the estimated expenditures in FY 2017.
That is, PGCPS is supposed to spend 13.1% less on fixed charges than they did the previous year. This is the only expenditure category to see a decrease in approved spending, compared with the estimated spending from FY 2017. In fact, several categories, such as maintenance of plant, and administration, are seeing major increases in allocated funds.
So what exactly do “fixed charges” cover? The answer is not entirely clear, but here’s what the glossary from PGCPS’s FY 2018 Requested Board of Education Annual Operating Budget (p. A-14) has to say:
Fixed Charges (Function 212): FICA, Health, Life and Unemployment Insurances, Retirement, and Worker’s Compensation.
This is puzzling indeed. Is PGCPS really going to absorb a 13.1% spending decrease in insurance expenditures, FICA, retirement, and worker’s compensation? Or is there some other explanation? Are the County Council’s allocations for expenditure categories meant to be flexible, non-binding suggestions, rather than demands? But if that is the case, why include expenditure categories in the letter at all? And, more importantly, where can members of the public find information about the proposed reconciled budget?
As the budget reconciliation process unfolds, it is important for parents, teachers, and other stakeholders to ask questions and voice their concerns.