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Board of Education approves revised budget

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ROCK HALL — At the superintendent’s request, the Kent County Board of Education approved a revised spending plan just two days before the new budget was to take effect.

The board held a special meeting Monday, June 29 to review the revised plan submitted by Superintendent Karen Couch, after having previously approved in April a $29.2 million budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

That budget included a request for $686,813 from the Kent County government above state-required funding levels. The Kent County Commissioners, in approving the county’s upcoming budget, kept education funding at the state-mandated funding floor, known as “maintenance of effort.”

While Couch sought the board’s approval for the revised budget, she said contract negotiations are still ongoing with the school system’s three bargaining units representing teachers, support staff and administrators.

“However, the board has to approve a revised budget that mirrors what we are getting — our revenue stream — so that you can authorize us to pay our bills beginning July 1,” Couch told board members.

The revised budget that was approved June 29 is set at about $28.6 million, with nearly $18.6 million coming from the county and a little over $9.5 million from the state. The remainder is coming from other sources and the federal government.

Couch said the $515,536 increase shown in funds from the county is not a hike in maintenance of effort.

One previously approved new position was cut in the revision: a part-time trainer for bus drivers listed at $35,000.

Three new positions remain in the budget: a special education teacher at Kent County Middle School, a grant specialist in the school system’s central office and a staff member to monitor the security vestibule at H.H. Garnet Elementary School in Chestertown.

Couch said the special education teacher — budgeted at $90,000 — is needed due to the number of students moving from the elementary level to the middle school this fall.

She said the grant specialist — budgeted at $25,000 — will help the administrators with managing the school system’s increased grant funding that comes with stringent budgeting and reporting requirements.

Budgeted at $15,000, the staff member at Garnet will be an hourly employee assigned to monitoring the security vestibule. Couch said previously, an instructional assistant was fulfilling that responsibility, but that individual will now shift into a classroom role.

Also included in the revised budget is the purchase of a used bus for $50,000, while plans to enter into lease purchase agreements for two additional new buses at $30,000 appear to have been cut.

The budget line for the Kent Blended Learning Learning Academy — a program combining home learning with classroom instruction that launched last fall before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools — increased from $30,000 to $55,000 in the revised budget.

“We’re assuming that with COVID-19, we may have more students that we are going to have service within the Kent Blended Learning Academy, so we added additional funding there,” Couch told board members.

The total increase over the previous budget is $862,188, with revenues increasing by $680,695. Additional cuts made to balance the budget include two instructional assistant positions, teacher retirements and contract savings.

The budget presentation is available through the board’s online meeting agenda at go.boarddocs.com/mabe/kcps/Board.nsf/Public.

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