The Prince George’s County Public Schools system faces a possible budget deficit of $10.5 million but much less than the $100 million projected last year.
Similar to last year, PGCPS CEO Monica Goldson released a proposed $2.6 billion fiscal year 2023 budget with a focus on mental health services, upgrades in technology and enhanced maintenance and cleaning with ongoing COVID-19 safety protocols.
The budget would be $300 million more than the current spending plan of $2.3 billion which represents more than 60% of the county’s overall budget.
An operating budget timeline shows the school board will conduct work sessions next month and hold a series of public hearings starting Jan. 27.
“We are embarking on a new strategic plan to ensure a clear vision, aligned mission and excellence in education and equity for every student,” Goldson said in a statement Friday, Dec. 10. “The proposed operating budget is designed to help us reach the outcomes we envision over the next five years.”
The coronavirus pandemic affected the student population throughout the state of Maryland in kindergarten through 12th grade decreasing by almost 18,300 in 2020.
As of Sept. 30 in Prince George’s, the student population stood at 124,368. School data shows the student population at 130,580 in fiscal year 2020.
With five-days-a-week, in-person instruction resuming this school year, the state Department of Legislative Services predicts the county’s student population could increase to 133,000.
School officials not only in Prince George’s but statewide say lower enrollments affect how much state money and county contributions flow into the schools for academic, athletic and other programs.
Because of that, the county projects $1.3 billion could come in the proposed budget in state funding. The amount would contribute to half of the county’s proposed budget.
The state’s legislative services, however, estimate $1.4 billion could come from the state.
To help balance the budget, some of the financial actions may include using $6.1 million from the fund balance, trimming $1.3 million in expenditures from the central office and redesignING the high school alternative program to save $2.5 million.
Some of the budget priorities in the spending plan labeled “equity and excellence” include:
- Student technology ($229 million) – through grants and operating funds to purchase 565,000 devices for every student.
- Mental health support ($140 million) – expand full-time therapy in all 207 school buildings by fiscal year 2024. Currently 140 schools provide the service full time.
- Staff support ($132 million) – expand and improve curriculum and instruction with additional personnel.
School board member Belinda Queen wants the budget to provide additional after-school and summer programs and keep in-person and online tutoring programs. In addition, she said it should provide funds to hire guidance counselors specialized in social skills to help students and parents who’ve struggled to cope during COVID-19.
“My hope is Dr. Goldson and her staff will listen to the students, listen to the teachers and listen to the parents,” she said. “We need to think outside the box. Let our teachers be creative. They can do it and make it fun for the students. COVID-19 has been tough on everybody but we can get through this.”