Superintendent Releases Amended Budget
Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr submitted an amended Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Operating Budget recommendation to the Montgomery County Board of Education Thursday, Feb. 21 that is only slightly above the state’s minimum required funding level and includes some important budget restorations and enhancements based on input from the Board and the public. The new recommendations are made possible by additional state aid and higher than anticipated budget savings.
Dr. Starr is recommending a $2.22 billion budget for FY 2014, which is an increase of $51.33 million—or 2.4 percent—over the current FY 2013 budget. Dr. Starr’s recommendation is about 0.2 percent above the minimum funding floor mandated by state law. The Board of Education will vote on the FY 2014 budget during its evening meeting on Monday, February 25, 2013, and submit its request to the County Executive and the County Council for consideration.
Dr. Starr initially submitted his budget recommendation in December, but indicated at the time that the budget was preliminary for several reasons, including the fact that MCPS did not know how much additional funding it would receive from the state for next year.
Dr. Starr’s budget recommendation sought funding that was about $10 million above the minimum state funding floor, called Maintenance of Effort (MOE), and made strategic investments that would allow MCPS to manage growth, prepare for the future and re-energize efforts to narrow the achievement gap. His amended recommendation is only $3.8 million above MOE.
The amended budget also funds additional strategic restorations and enhancements based on input received from parents and staff during two public hearings, as well as input from the Board of Education. These include the addition of school psychologists and counselors; an increase in funds for professional development; and the addition of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme at two middle schools.
“I deeply appreciate the input we received from parents, staff and citizens across the county about my recommended operating budget for next year,” Dr. Starr said. “Now that we know what our increase in state aid is and have been able to identify additional savings, I am pleased to recommend this responsible amended budget that reflects the interests and values of our community.”
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley released his proposed FY 2014 budget last month, which provides MCPS with an increase in state aid of $17.05 million. This is about $7 million more than Dr. Starr allotted in his December budget recommendation.
The most significant change in the amended budget recommendation is a reduction in the Employee Benefits Health Plan by $14.4 million. The reductions are based on claim trends throughout the year and districtwide efforts to lower healthcare costs, including a wellness program, plan design changes and the rebidding of health care services. Additional savings were identified in utilities ($400,000) due to lower natural gas rates and funds for nonpublic placements of special education students ($350,000) based on enrollment projections.
Negotiations between the Board of Education and the three MCPS employee associations have not yet been completed, but Dr. Starr has recommended a placeholder of $12.43 million for possible compensation increases be included in the FY 2014 budget.
Restorations and Enhancements
Dr. Starr’s initial budget included the addition of more than 200 positions to account for overall growth, as well as increases in the number of students receiving English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services and services provided to students with disabilities. His budget also called for strategic investments in key areas, including middle schools, mathematics, and professional development, as well as the restoration of some positions that were eliminated in recent years. (Learn more about Dr. Starr’s initial budget recommendation<http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/press/index.aspx?pagetype=showrelease&id=3267&type=&startYear=&pageNumber=2&mode=>).
In his amended budget, Dr. Starr is recommending an additional $3.99 million be spent for strategic restorations and enhancements. Many of these investments are in response to input from the public and the Board during public hearings and Board work sessions.
“There is much more we’d like to do, but we must be reasonable and responsible in our approach to the budget,” Dr. Starr said. “As I emphasized in December, this budget is the first step in a multiyear strategy to restore positions that have been lost over the past several years and to make key investments in strategic areas.”
The additional enhancements and restorations include:
– The addition of five school psychologist positions ($341,028) to help lower caseloads;
– Restoration of two counselor positions that were cut at smaller elementary schools in recent years ($147,170);
– An additional 8 maintenance worker positions to account for a 12 percent growth in the amount of space needing to be maintained ($433,265);
– The implementation of the IB Middle Years Programme at Martin Luther King and Roberto W. Clemente middle schools ($234,986, which includes funds for 1.6 coordinator positions);
– The addition of 6.2 high school teachers to reduce math and English class sizes at Watkins Mill, Springbrook and Gaithersburg high schools ($406,677);
– An additional 5 special education paraeducator positions ($197,413);
– The addition of $2.13 million for professional learning around Curriculum 2.0, including curriculum development, teacher training and substitutes to provide teachers time for collaborative training.
– Additional funds to expand school-based programs that support narrowing of the achievement gap ($100,000).
Following Board action on Monday night, the FY 2014 budget will be sent to the County Executive and County Council on March 1. The Executive is expected to release his budget on March 15, 2013. The Council will hold public hearings and work sessions throughout the spring and take final action on the budget in mid-May.
Amended FY 2014 Operating Budget Recommendation<http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/boe/meetings/agenda/2013/022513/06.0%20Adoption%20FY2014%20Operating%20Budget.pdf>