For the first time, the superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools is going town to town to hear from residents about what they want to see in the school system’s $2 billion operating budget.

Usually, the public doesn’t weigh in until after the budget process is underway. The superintendent presents the budget in early January, the public gives their input a week later, the school board holds a work session on the budget later that month and then votes on the spending plan in February.

Last school year, community members told school system leaders there was not enough time to analyze the budget and give input before the board voted on it. Myriam Rogers’ visits to five locations before presenting her plan could remedy that.

The next meeting in the series is Tuesday evening at Pikesville High School.

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“I think what we heard in previous years are members of the community don’t understand the budget process,” said Gboyinde Onijala, the school system’s director of communications.

County residents see the school system’s $2 billion budget and are unsure why it’s so big — it’s half the entire county’s budget — as well as where the money comes from, and where it is going, Onijala added. The meetings are a way the system can explain it and an opportunity for the public to voice their ideas on what the funding priorities should be.

Onijala also said it’s an example of Rogers’ commitment to collaboration with the community. When Rogers first started the job this past summer, she toured the county to speak with parents, students and staff about her goals for the community and hear what they expect from her.

This budget cycle, residents also had two weeks to complete a survey, and there’s a primer breaking down the complex process on the school system’s website.

During the first community budget meeting at Sparrows Point High School on Friday, Onijala said, safety was a top concern. Participants were happy with the safety assistants in school buildings and the new gun detection software, Omnilert. But they want more, she said.

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Residents can weigh in on where they’d like to see school money spent at four upcoming meetings, each taking place at 6 p.m.:

The school board’s public hearing on the budget scheduled for Jan. 16, and the County Council’s public hearing will happen in April.

kristen.griffith@thebaltimorebanner.com

This article has been updated to correct the date of the budget meeting at Loch Raven High School.

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