Union Boss' Letter Draws Shaw's Ire

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Union Boss' Letter Draws Shaw's Ire

Prince Frederick, MD - 3/16/2013

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By Marty Madden

Commissioner Susan Shaw
Commissioner Susan Shaw

A letter sent to Calvert County employees by the president of the union representing teachers is stirring up controversy in local political circles. In a recent missive addressed to “the CCPS [Calvert County Public Schools] employee community,” Calvert Education Association (CEA) President Debbie Russ indicated requested additional funds from county government for the fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget may be denied.

“In the event the CCPS budget is not fully funded you may not receive your negotiated salary increases,” Russ stated. “Also program cuts and staff layoffs may occur.”

Russ is urging public school employees to lobby the commissioners, attend the Tuesday, March 26 hearing regarding the FY 2014 county operating budget at Calvert Pines Senior Center, wear red that day and “talk to friends, neighbors and parents about what will happen if the CCPS budget is not fully funded.”

Calvert County Commissioner Susan Shaw [R] has responded to the Russ missive, telling Russ “I am extremely disappointed in the tactics your email to all school staff demonstrates, which is nothing more than fear mongering. You lead your members to believe that the budget process is final, when it is not, as you well know.”

Late last month the Calvert County Board of Education (BOE) voted unanimously to approve the $196.69 million budget proposed by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jack Smith. The proposed FY 2014 budget calls for the county to increase its funding allocation by $5 million over the current fiscal year. The increase would bring the allocation to $115.28 million, which would be 59 percent of the BOE budget. Smith’s proposed budget currently assumes an $888,096 decrease in state funding. The superintendent said the smaller state allocation is attributed to CCPS’ falling enrollment and the fact Calvert’s “wealth went down less” than some other Maryland jurisdictions.

Shaw told Russ that her (Russ’) term “full funding” was “misleading in itself. The BOCC [board of county commissioners] has provided extremely generous funding from the taxpayers of Calvert County. We have gone way above maintenance of effort, which is flat per-pupil funding over those years. We are in extremely trying fiscal times for governments because our property tax revenues have dropped due to decreasing property tax assessments.”

Shaw noted if the commissioners decide to leave the property tax assessment rate at $.89 per $100 of assessed value—which has been in effect since 1987—the county taxpayers will have a 5 percent tax decrease over FY 2013. Shaw said the county commissioners hope to increase funding to the BOE over last year “despite less revenues.”

Additionally, Shaw reminded the BOE, not the county commissioners, decides how funding is allocated. She also stated Maryland officials are providing less funding to Calvert and have burdened the county with funding responsibilities for the state teachers’ pension fund. “Why don’t you exhort your membership to harass the state legislature?” Shaw asked.

Like Russ, Shaw encourages CCPS employees to attend the March 26 budget hearing. “They will come away with a better understanding of how their tax dollars are obtained and spent,” Shaw stated.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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