The Board of Education unanimously adopted the final Montgomery County Public Schools Fiscal Year 2008 operating budget at its June 12 meeting.
The $1.985 billion budget reflects changes as approved by the County Council on May 24. The council approved 99.7 percent of the Board’s budget request, providing an increase of $133 million (7.2 percent) over the FY 2007 budget.
The funding includes $12.1 million in new and expanded initiatives that will enable the school system to continue reform efforts that have produced unprecedented academic achievement for students. Among the initiatives are $2.5 million for middle school reform; $1.8 million to improve special education services, including an additional 11 middle schools with hours-based staffing; $1.6 million to add 17 new assistant principals in elementary schools; and $1.6 million to add 20.5 middle and high school counselors.
“Today, the Board passed an excellent budget that gives our teachers, administrators and support professionals the resources they need to give every student a world class education,” said Nancy Navarro, president of the Board of Education. “It was a difficult budget year because resources were limited, but once again our community reaffirmed that education remains our number one priority.”
In approving the budget, the Board affirmed its support for negotiated agreements with the school system’s three employee organizations. The agreements will provide employees a salary increase of 4.8 percent in FY 2008, 5 percent in FY 2009, and 5.3 percent in FY 2010. The cost of the FY 2008 wage increase totals $69.9 million. The budget also includes a $16.1 million contribution to a retiree health trust fund mandated by new accounting rules.
Overall, the County Council reduced the final MCPS budget request by $6.3 million (0.3 percent), including almost $5.2 million in unspecified reductions. To accommodate those reductions, at its June 12 meeting, the Board approved reductions of $2.25 million in the Employee Benefit Plan, based on lower health care cost projections; $2.1 million in salary lapse and turnover savings; and about $817,000 in organizational development, including reductions in a range of projects without impacting system priorities.
Previously, to help reconcile the Board of Education’s request and the council’s spending affordability guidelines, the council had approved making more than $8 million from additional state aid for the capital budget available to the MCPS operating budget. The council also projected that MCPS would identify revenue and expenditure savings of $6.9 million in FY 2007 that can be used as a resource for the FY 2008 operating budget.
President Navarro and Superintendent Jerry D. Weast praised the Board of Education, County Executive, County Council, and their staffs “for their cooperation and the collaborative approach during a tough budget year.” The budget benefited from unprecedented public involvement, they said, with hundreds of parents, employees, and community representatives participating in community meetings and more than 1,000 additional comments submitted in writing.
“This is a multiyear budget that presents the sustained long-term commitment to improve student achievement that has marked the last seven years,” Weast said. “I am confident that our community will maintain and strengthen its commitment to continue steady progress toward achieving the Board of Education’s academic priorities.”