ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — The Howard County Public Schools System’s health deficit fund will be eliminated this year, which is two years ahead of schedule, according to a joint statement from the system and County Executive Calvin Ball’s office.

“This deficit has significantly constrained our operating budget for several years and limited our ability to adequately fund several priorities,” said Superintendent Martirano. “Eliminating the deficit became an immediate top priority for me and Board of Education members. Today truly is a momentous day as we can celebrate that our commitment and collaboration has finally addressed this deficit and that the Howard County Public School System will not be hampered by this looming deficit year after year. It is our responsibility and the responsibility of all future leaders in our county to ensure that our employee health care costs are fully funded.”

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The deficit began in 2015, was first discussed publicly in 2017, then grew to $39.2 million before several efforts to halt the growth were implemented, according to the statement.

Those included fully funding actuarially projected health insurance costs and paying down the deficit. Ball and Superintendent Michael J Martirano developed a plan in 2019 to eliminate the deficit by fiscal year 2024.

Using savings within the school system’s operating budget, a one-time infusion of funds from the Howard County government, and a lower-than-expected claims experience in fiscal years 2021 and 2022, the deficit will be eliminated this fiscal year with an estimated $5 million positive balance if claims are consistent with actuarial projections.

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In the statement, Martiraro detailed several collaborative efforts to eliminate the health fund deficit:

  • The efforts of the board of education’s steadfast commitment to fully funding the actuarially projected health insurance costs to stop the deficit from growing
  • Ball and the county council’s collaboration by dedicating significant contributions to deficit reduction
  • The strategic budgetary measures that were put in place to generate year-end savings in the school system’s general fund to help pay down the deficit
  • Unanticipated health cost savings in the health fund producing operating gains

“The school system’s health fund deficit represented a significant fiscal challenge that our administration and county council had to confront upon taking office. In just 3 years, we have accomplished something truly remarkable: we have taken a near $40 million deficit and turned it into a projected surplus of over $5 million,” Ball said. “Our administration, school system and board of education faced a daunting challenge, met it head-on, and resolved the issue working together. I am proud of the work we’ve done to eliminate the health fund deficit and am thankful to have good partners like Dr. Martirano, the members of the board of education, and our Howard County Council to make today possible.”

 

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CBS Baltimore Staff