Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, MD

FY 2011 Operating Budget: Question & Answers

During the budget process, questions asked by members of the Board of Education are compiled. Appropriate staff from Montgomery County Public Schools respond to the questions with written answers that are forwarded to Board members.

Answers to other budget questions may be requested from the Department of Management, Budget, and Planning. Ask a budget question

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Questions 1-10

1. Clarify the $44.2 million fund balance for FY 2011. Why is the fund balance not simply the projected $10.3 million in 2010 savings?

At this time, revenue estimates for fund balance and other revenue sources are very preliminary. Before the Board of Education adopts its FY 2011 Operating Budget Request, there should be greater clarity on major revenue sources, including available fund balance. For FY 2010, the amount of end-of-year fund balance is uncertain partly because the county's fiscal crisis will require greater budget savings by all agencies, including Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). Although the county executive and the County Council previously asked MCPS to save $9.9 million in expenditure savings (in addition to about $400,000 in anticipated revenue surplus), the county executive's new target calls for total savings of $60-$70 million, with $22 million in additional savings expected of MCPS. The total amount of savings requested from MCPS now stands at $31.7 million.

In addition to the FY 2010 savings plan, the end-of-year fund balance also will be affected by the resolution of the current issue of maintenance of effort for FY 2010. If resolution of this issue results in a loss of FY 2010 state aid for MCPS, that would reduce available fund balance at the end of FY 2010.

Other revenue sources also remain uncertain for FY 2011. Normally, by this time of the year, we would have projected state revenue amounts from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). These preliminary projections have not yet been distributed, although they are expected to be received in January, before the Board takes action on the budget. In addition, the governor's proposed budget may clarify how the governor intends to use available federal stimulus revenue in FY 2011. This decision will have an impact on how much Montgomery County can expect in federal grant revenue for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) grant, which is unrestricted in use and therefore is available to fund the tax-supported (spending affordability) budget.

Because of these many uncertainties, it seemed prudent to maintain revenue projections for all non-county revenue at the same level as has been received in the current fiscal year until more information becomes available.

2. What is the total ARRA funding expected for 2011 that will need to be funded by other means in 2012? Break down the ARRA funding for each program (special ed, title I, etc.).

In FY 2010, MCPS received a major increase in federal aid through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the federal economic stimulus legislation. These funds are provided for two years, through September 30, 2011. Although appropriated as a single multiyear grant, the ARRA funds were designated by Maryland to be used primarily as formula grants in even amounts during FY 2010 and FY 2011. The operating budget assumes that MCPS also will receive a total of $50 million in ARRA grants in FY 2011. Additional ARRA funds may be received through competitive grants that will be awarded later this year and next year.

Much of the ARRA money is restricted in use. MCPS received $5.9 million for Title I and $16.4 million for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). MCPS will receive similar amounts in FY 2011 for these grant programs. As part of the ARRA funding, MCPS also received through the governor a total of $27.8 million under the SFSF. These funds are intended to be used to save and create jobs to boost the economy. The governor decided to use the education funds to avoid having to make reductions in certain state aid formulas, including the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI), and to support needed increases in state retirement payments made on behalf of local school districts. MCPS will receive an SFSF grant in FY 2011, but it is not yet known how the governor intends to distribute the funds. This budget assumes the same amount in SFSF funds. MCPS also is exploring opportunities to secure additional ARRA funds through forthcoming competitive grants.

MCPS is acutely aware that these federal funds will terminate after FY 2011, what is called the "funding cliff." The assumption is that improving economic conditions will provide sufficient state and local revenue to replace the expiring federal funds. However, the indication is that economic conditions will not improve quickly enough to avoid revenue reductions in FY 2012 and subsequent years.

The potential loss of federal funding in FY 2012 would have a significant impact on the state budget and on the MCPS local budget in FY 2012. The loss of federal funding may impact state funding because the state would lose unrestricted SFSF funding that supports current state aid formulas and increases in teacher retirement payments. There may be an effort to transfer the responsibility for some or all of these payments to local government. The loss of federal funding in FY 2012 will require a reduction of the MCPS budget. Title I funding to eligible schools will be reduced. Most of the additional IDEA funding has been used for one-time expenditures, which can be discontinued. However, ongoing funding for hours based staffing in middle schools and other special education programs supported by ARRA funding may be reduced. Finally, the loss of SFSF funding will require fully offsetting budget reductions elsewhere in the operating budget.

3. Break down the class size increase savings by elementary, middle, and high school.

If staffing guidelines were to change so as to increase class sizes by approximately 1 student across all grades, the breakdown of staff reductions would be approximately 120 elementary school teachers, 55 middle school teachers, and 65 high school teachers, making a total of 240 teachers. In addition, the increase of class size by one student is an average and will vary from school to school and level to level. If enrollment varies with respect to the projection, class sizes also would be impacted.

4. Are there any studies or other evaluations of the impact of academic intervention teachers?

There are no studies or other evaluations of the impact of academic intervention teachers.

5. Are there any studies or other evaluations of the impact of elementary school regular education paraeducators?

There are no studies or other evaluations of the impact of academic intervention teachers.

6. Please breakdown how the special program teachers will be reduced by school and program. Describe the specific impact of these cuts on each special program and school.

The special program teacher positions are allocated each year to programs at elementary, middle, and high schools. These allocations do vary from year to year based on enrollment and changes in programs. The reduction of 12.9 special program teacher positions would occur as follows: 5.1 positions at elementary school, .4 position at middle school, and 7.4 positions at high school. If any or all of these 12.9 positions are eliminated, decisions about specific reductions will take place in the spring as part of the budget decisions.

7. Please specify each optional regular education program and the impacted school proposed for the elimination of transportation. What are the transportation savings associated with each program? What will be the impact on each program if transportation is eliminated? For example, if transportation for the high school consortia outside of base areas is eliminated, will students be given the option of transferring to their base area school? Are current applicants for these programs being advised that transportation might be eliminated?

As with other potential budget reductions, no decisions on possible changes have yet been made. However, the superintendent of schools has issued a list of potential changes that will have to be considered should needed funding not be available.

The optional regular programs for which students receive transportation services outside their regular attendance area include immersion programs, gifted and talented centers, and International Baccalaureate (IB) and magnet programs. The average transportation cost per student for these programs is estimated at $942 annually. If transportation were no longer provided for these programs, it can be expected that fewer students would avail themselves of the opportunity to apply for admission. Students would still have an opportunity to participate in such programs, but they would have to provide their own transportation. Significant operational and program issues would need to be addressed if reductions are made in these services. Those who participate in or apply for these programs should be aware of the possibility of such changes.

The cost of transportation for the high school consortia was included in the total cost shown in the possible budget reduction. However, transportation cannot be eliminated for the consortia schools unless the entire Choice process is reconsidered. The consortia are not optional programs. The school the student selects is the assigned school and transportation must be provided.

8. Please specify which central office administrative positions are being proposed for reduction?

At this time, the superintendent of schools has not made any proposals for reducing any positions or services, including central office positions. If MCPS does not receive funding at the maintenance of effort level, decisions on specific reductions will be made once the amount of reductions is known.

9. How many literacy and math content coaches are included in the proposed 2011 budget for middle and high school?

As part of budget reductions in FY 2010, each middle school reform school lost one teacher support position. This meant that each of the 11 middle school reform schools had the option of being allocated 2.0 full-time equivalent positions (FTEs) to support staff development, literacy, and math instruction. This 2.0 FTE could be allocated in increments smaller than a 1.0 FTE. For example a school could choose to have a .8 staff development teacher position, a .6 literacy coach position, and a .6 math content specialist position. Or a school could opt to have a 1.0 FTE for two of the positions. For example, a school might choose to have a 1.0 staff development teacher position and a 1.0 literacy coach position. School decisions about how to use their 2.0 FTEs are made based on specific school needs. In order to be able to budget in advance for the positions, we budget 11 literacy coach positions and 11 math content specialist positions. However, when the middle school reform schools adopt a plan, this breakdown may change. No other middle or high schools have literacy or math content coach positions.

10. If the allocation of elementary staff development and reading teachers is reduced for the smallest schools as proposed, identify which schools will be impacted.

The superintendent of schools has not made any proposal on reducing staff development or reading teacher positions. At this time, no particular schools have been identified. If reductions are necessary, which would impact schools with lower enrollments, the particular schools affected would depend on how many positions are reduced and how reductions are apportioned. Any decision about which schools will have a reduction in staffing for reading specialist and staff development teacher positions is dependent on the enrollment of the schools for FY 2011. Official projected enrollment for schools will be completed by March 2010, at which time we will know which schools may be impacted by any reduction.

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Updated February 19, 2010 | Maintained by Web Services