January 18 – Dr. David Sovine, superintendent for Washington County Public Schools, presented his proposed 2025 budget to the Board of Education this past Tuesday and the total price tag is more than $360 million, which is a 5.91% increase over last year.
Statistics have shown that in the last three years, Washington County has seen a 21% increase in students who are eligible for free and reduced priced meals, a 15% increase in students with disabilities and a 64% increase in students who receive English Learner services.
Last year’s budget was adopted by the board in September 2023.
Sovine told the board on Tuesday that he went line-by-line over last year’s budget to ensure the greatest impact for every dollar spent.
As a result, every employee in the Washington County Public School System will see a 5% increase in salary. There are about 3,500 people working in the district, which would require an additional $10 million to the salary pool.
Sovine pointed out that 70% of employees live in Washington County and that the salary increase would mean WCPS could remain comparable with local government raises and regional education system employers.
Sovine said, “Our employees are truly deserving of a meaningful salary increase that will help us close the gap with our local and regional competitors. They deserve to know they are valued, and they are a critical part of our school families. We cannot move our community forward to a better future without them.”
Part of the proposal included funding staff positions that would support safety, security and mental health in schools, particularly in the area of special education.
Requirements in the state’s Blueprint for Maryland’s Future resulted in Sovine asking for an additional $3.24 million in the proposed budget so the county could meet the 75% per pupil funding following the student.
Under the Blueprint, WCPS is supporting high school students enrolled in dual credit courses through Hagerstown Community College by paying for each student’s tuition, textbooks, and fees. WCPS expects to invest more than $2.2 million in the initiative this year, and student interest is increasing. WCPS anticipates nearly $500,000 more will be needed to fund the program in 2025.
Inflation was also addressed in Sovine’s proposed budget with the suggested need to purchase school buses and operational supplies.
Sovine said, “As we continue through the budget considerations over the next several months, I encourage members of the community to get informed and involved in the process. Public education is an investment in our community’s future, and it’s important that taxpayers understand how their investment in our students is being utilized to enhance and improve the quality of life here in Washington County.”
For more information on the proposed budget, click here: https://wcpsmd.com/