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Funding for Cecil County schools takes spotlight at Town Hall meeting over county's budget

Funding for Cecil County schools takes spotlight at Town Hall meeting over county's budget
Funding for Cecil County schools takes spotlight at Town Hall meeting over county's budget 02:41

BALTIMORE - Funds for Cecil County Public Schools took the spotlight at the county executive's Town Hall meeting on the annual budget proposal. 

A total of 74 people signed up to speak before Danielle Hornberger and other county leaders inside a packed room of the Cecil County Government Building in Elkton on Thursday evening.

"I made a promise to the citizens of this great county that I would be accountable to the taxpayers," Hornberger said in opening remarks. 

Speakers had an opportunity to weigh in on the Fiscal Year 2025 budget.

 "It is completely unacceptable to balance the budget on the backs of our children's education," one speaker said. 

"It's unaffordable and a good way to bankrupt our county," another speaker said. 

The Board of Education approved their portion of the package on Wednesday evening before it was submitted to the county executive. 

The BOE recommends the local government allocate an additional $21 million to public schools for next year. 

"The board's position is that $17 million of that will allow us to do next year what we're doing currently this year. So, it's pretty much a no-growth budget in terms of services to students and families," Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Lawson said. 

$4.5 million of the total would go toward funding 64 new teacher and paraprofessional positions. 

Since January, the superintendent has been sounding the alarm on this revenue shortfall, which he said would strip the school system of certain programs and positions if the local government does not make up the difference. 

The potential for drastic cuts has prompted students, parents, staff and community members to plead for the county executive to approve the additional funds. 

"I've never seen anything like this in my 40 years in public education where we have such a level of interest and intensity from our families and our students," Lawson said. 

The proposal is now in the hands of the county executive who said is not commenting on individual points in the budget proposal, including the public schools funding.

In a presentation, the county stated funds for the public school system make up about 44 percent of the total annual budget. 

"This is going to impact all of us, our whole community, not just children, not just parents," Chrissy Howard said. 

In a statement, however, Hornberger wrote: 

"Last night, the Cecil County Board of Education has voted on its FY25 budget proposal. While we recognize that people are eager to identify final figures associated with the FY'25 budget, the next four weeks will see my team and I working diligently to review, ask questions, and gain a comprehensive understanding of the school board's request. This is what our students and families deserve!  In the meantime, my office will not be publicly commenting on individual components of the budget, to include school funding, until the proposed county budget is submitted to the County Council for consideration on April 1st.  It is my hope that the time for rhetoric, fear, and harassment is behind us.  It is now time to tackle the difficult work of seeking solutions that prioritize learning and student achievement." 

On April 1, Hornberger will submit the proposal to county council members who will then hold their own budget hearing in the month to follow. 

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