January is the month when we release the Superintendent’s Recommended Budget after many conversations and much deliberation; then the Board of Education begins its work by reviewing, discussing, and making more decisions.
The budget for Frederick County Public Schools is over $629 million. Developing and monitoring that budget is complicated. However, the decision-making process for the FCPS budget resembles the process used in most households. The first two questions we ask are these: how much money will we get (revenue coming in) and what bills do we need to pay (expenditures)?
For FCPS, most of the bills we need to pay include salaries and benefits for employees, operations and maintenance of facilities, transportation costs, insurance, and maintaining licenses for software needed for instruction and operations. If these costs rise from year-to-year, then either revenue has to increase or we have to find other ways to offset costs. These costs are similar to household expenses like mortgages or rent, utilities, car payments or maintenance, insurance, cell phones, and fees to people providing essential services. And similarly, if the utility bill increases, how does a family adjust their budget?
Another discussion we have in developing the FCPS budget is about the people or materials that we feel we need to do our work more effectively or efficiently. The deliberation during this phase of the budget process focuses on “need vs. want” and how much can we reasonably afford. In a household, a similar conversation may focus on whether to buy a new car or budget for additional maintenance. Should the family put more money into a college fund or upgrade their cell phones?
The Superintendent’s Recommended Budget identifies the essential base budget and then lists a set of additional priority items we will fund if there is money. The exact revenue that FCPS will receive will remain unknown for several months as the State and County make final budgetary decisions. This may be similar to a family that needs to wait to find out about pay raises or new job opportunities. In both situations, it is challenging to work on budget details until the unknown revenue is finalized.
When the FCPS budget is complete, we have ensured that we can pay our essential bills. Sometimes we have been able to add a few priority items. Often, we still have important items that we just could not include in the budget. Most families probably feel the same way as they navigate through their own budget process.
The most important thing is that families – and communities – work together to make important budgetary decisions. That’s why we ask the entire FCPS community – parents, teachers, business leaders, taxpayers – to participate in the FCPS budget process. Your voice and your perspective matter as we weigh priorities.
I ask that you take a close look at FCPS’s proposed budget. If you support the priorities you see reflected there, please share your views with our Board of Education and other elected leaders. At fcps.org, you will find many ways to engage, support, and advocate – in person and online. I’d also love to hear from you on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper. And if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter.