Cumberland Times-News

May 16, 2013

Budget conflict turning personal

Commissioner slams board of education

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — County Commissioner Michael McKay said an email from a teacher attacking his family over school funding was the last straw.

“I’m done,” he said. “It’s personal,” said the commissioner.

McKay, his voice quivering with emotion at times, launched into a list of grievances against teachers unions and the county board of education during a budget discussion at a commission work session Thursday. The failure of the board of education to fight the shift of teacher pension costs from the state to the county last year especially upset him, he said.

“They sit there in their ivory tower at 108 Washington Street ... and then they don’t show, McKay said.

“Where was the board of education?” McKay said.

The teacher pension decision, while for now partially reimbursed by a disparity grant, is costing the county money, commissioners have maintained.

The county will increase funding for public education next year, but only to maintenance of effort levels required by the state. That figure is $378,089, county officials have said. Commissioners were discussing certain budget provisions, including that for the board of education during the work session.

“I’d have liked to have been able to fund everyone’s request ... the board of education gets the lion’s share,” McKay said. Commissioner Bill Valentine said Allegany County was not alone and that 12 counties in the state were funding schools at maintenance of effort levels.

McKay and Valentine agreed that they wanted to stay with a budget plan that had been discussed at the last few meetings. That plan included a 3 percent cost of living increase for county employees, the first such raise in several years. It also included additional appropriations for Allegany College of Maryland, the Human Resources Development Commission and a contingency fund.

The contingency fund of $190,000 was set up to fund the sheriff’s plan for school security. A $130,000 infusion of cash for the college may abate a planned 3 percent tuition increase and allow the college to reduce the increase to 2 percent.

The HRDC will receive an additional $30,000.

Valentine said money for HRDC and for the college was money for education. The HRDC makes sure children have housing and food, among other things, he said.

“I am so tired of them using ‘for the children,’” McKay said.

County Administrator David Eberly suggested it may be time for the county to begin lobbying the state to allow boards of education to raise their own revenues, as they do in many other states. Eberly said that would be a very tough fight that might take a long time, but it could end the adversarial relationship that the current funding system sometimes creates.

The work session took place at county offices on Kelly Road.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.