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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wicomico County Education Association Challenges County Budget Figures

SALISBURY, Md.- The Wicomico County budget has been at the center of debate for months, especially when it comes to our schools. Now, the Wicomico County Education Association says the county has it all wrong when it comes to revenue and available funds.
From FY2010 to FY2012, the county slashed education funding by more than $14 million. And more cuts could be on the way.
But the Wicomico County Education Association says "not so fast," claiming the county has more than enough money to fully fund its schools in the amount requested by the Board of Education.
in January, the WCEA brought in the services of R.J. Pellicoro and Associates to take a closer look at the county's budget going back three years.
The report claims the county underestimated revenue and can fund the $38.7 million requested for FY2013, without taking away from the general fund or other departments.
The county tells a very different story.
Bennett Middle School -- and specifically funding for a new one -- has been the source of heated discussion in the county for quite some time. The WCEA says based on the findings of an independent audit, projects like this can and should move forward.
"The results of the audit show that we can fund the budget for all departments. The days of cuts should be behind us at this point in time," said WCEA president David White.
The Association said Robert Pellicoro was hired to take an independent look into the county's budget in response to warnings of "doom and gloom."
"Revenues would more than cover the expenditures and add $5 million to the unassigned general fund balance," Pellicoro explained.
Pellicoro said the same revenue information he used to put together the audit is available to the county and he can't explain why county officials haven't come to the same conclusions.
The county said the explanation is simple: that this was no audit but a study based on assumptions.
"It's not an audit and I'm responsible for doing the revenue estimating and monitoring the expenses and I prepare the budget on behalf of the executive and we fundamentally disagree with some of the assumptions and assertions made by that study," said Wicomico County Director of Finance Andrew Mackel.
Mackel said providing additional funding to the Board of Education is not a possibility right now but the request may be revisited when more information is available at the end of the fiscal year.

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