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Harford County Public Schools plans to give back money as asked by the county executive to protect against potential budget shortfalls, but the dollar figure is $3.5 million less than was actually requested.

Harford County Executive David Craig has once again asked all of his departments to hold back 3 percent of the funds allocated to them in the current FY2011 budget.

Craig took the action in January to forestall any likelihood the current county budget might end up with a deficit. The 2011 fiscal year ends June 30.

The school system, which is included in Craig’s giveback request, as well as the sheriff’s office, plans to give back $2.9 million to the county, which is less than half of the 3 percent, or $6.4 million, asked for by Craig.

School system Budget Director Jim Jewell, who discussed the giveback during Monday’s school board meeting, said the school system was held to $2.9 million because of the state mandated maintenance of effort requirement.

“Returning this amount [$6.4 million] would have resulted in a loss of state aid as we would have been below state maintenance of effort,” according to an e-mail sent from the school system’s communications office to The Aegis Tuesday.

State law requires county governments to maintain their shares of their school systems’ budgets from year to year or face cuts in the amount of state funding the schools receive. Maintenance of effort determinations by the state are based upon enrollment and other variables.

The school board will vote on its giveback at a future school board meeting, Jewell explained at Monday’s board meeting.

In FY2011, maintenance of effort was set at $211.1 million and the school system received $214.1 million from the county, according to the school system’s FY2011 budget posted online.

Giving back $6.4 million at the county’s request would drop the school system’s funding level to $207.7 million, which is $3.4 million shy of maintenance of effort.

Maintenance of effort for FY2012 is also $214.1 million, as the Harford system did not experience any significant enrollment change this school year.

Of the $2.9 million to go back to the county, $817,185 will from Medicare Part D revenue; $500,000 from utility savings; $200,000 from salary savings from vacant positions; and $1.4 million from savings in the health insurance line, a result of enrollee changes in choices and fewer enrollees than projected, according to the information Jewell supplied the board.

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