Kevin Maxwell, the new Prince George’s County schools chief, asked the Board of Education on Thursday night to make significant changes to the district’s $1.7 billion budget, allowing the school system to pay for several new executive level positions, additional teachers, some security improvements and other initiatives.
The board agreed to consider Maxwell’s request to transfer $18 million from other accounts to cover the cost of his proposal. The changes still need final approval from the school board and the County Council to take effect.
“I think Dr. Maxwell is very attuned that we put the money in the right place,” said Thomas E. Sheeran, the interim chief financial officer.
The adjustments to the current operating budget come as Maxwell begins work on the fiscal year 2015 budget, his first spending plan since taking the reins of the school system.
Half of the allotment would pay for salaries and benefits for teachers hired to adjust class sizes and for fencing around temporary buildings at elementary schools.
Maxwell’s proposal would shift $7 million in student-based budgeting to pay for the additional teachers and $2 million would be used to start the first-phase of the fence installation.
He wants to spend almost $800,000 for 10 full-time employees to support art education programs and nearly $700,000 to pay for a new diversity officer, who will focus on Latino affairs; a secretary to work for the diversity officer; a new chief of staff position; and leave payout for Alvin Crawley, the former acting superintendent.
The school system anticipates saving $3 million on natural gas and telephone expenditures. Budget officers are also drawing $15 million from savings in health benefits and salary lapses.
The expenditures were listed on the agenda as a “first reader.” Ordinarily there is no discussion on items listed as first reader.
But board member Edward Burroughs (District 8) asked that the item be considered separately so members could ask questions.
Board Chairman Segun Eubanks then asked for a legal opinion on whether discussion could take place. According to the statute, discussion was permitted.
Burroughs said he did not have a problem with most of the appropriations, but it appeared as though Maxwell were funding new initiatives.
“Generally speaking, initiatives, additional department costs and budget priorities are done in a collaborative manner and so when the multimillion dollar proposal came before the board, and there was no planned discussion, I thought it was strange,” Burroughs said.
Burroughs said the budget is one way for board members to “know the direction the system is going” so he plans to meet with Maxwell next week to discuss his priorities and get additional clarity on the budget request.