The Board of Education unanimously approved the final Fiscal Year 2009 Operating Budget at its June 10 meeting, paving the way for improvement initiatives including middle school reform, hours-based staffing for special education and two new International Baccalaureate programs, along with full funding of salary agreements negotiated with employee associations. The budget also includes significant reductions due to the current economic climate.
The budget totals about $2.07 billion, approved by the County Council on May 22. This is an increase of 4.1 percent ($81.7 million) over the current FY 2008 Operating Budget but about 2.1 percent ($44.6 million) less than the Board’s budget request to the Council. The share of the budget increase paid for by local taxpayers is $75 million.
The Board’s budget approved about $5.4 million in initiatives on June 10. The Middle School Magnet Consortium will continue in its current configuration for the coming school year. Middle school reform will be fully implemented at six of the 10 schools that were planned for reform, and the other four will be partially funded. The partial implementation will include Promethean technology; advanced courses in English, social studies and science; the Lights, Camera, Literacy! extended learning opportunities course; Information and Communications Technology course and other electives; and Study Circles. Accelerated middle school courses will be expanded.
The budget also provides funding for hours-based staffing for middle school special education, designed to ensure equitable distribution of special education staff to support these students in the general education environment; the Students Engaged in Pathways to Achievement program for ESOL students; International Baccalaureate programs at John F. Kennedy and Seneca Valley high schools; expansion of the Poolesville High School magnet program; lunch hour aides; class size reduction at three additional elementary focus schools; and Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports, a structure for maintaining a positive school environment conducive to learning.
The budget includes full funding of a 5 percent salary increase and employee benefits based on negotiated agreements with employee associations.
"I am pleased that we have been able to preserve funding for the key initiatives that reflect the priorities of our strategic plan, including middle school reform and hours-based staffing," said Board of Education President Nancy Navarro. “Funding of the negotiated salary increases for our employees is equally important. This strategic investment in our workforce is particularly important as demands on staff become even greater."
Because the County Council did not provide funding for the $10.2 million requested for improvement initiatives, the $5.4 million in initiatives approved by the Board must be offset by additional budget reductions in other areas. The Board also made reductions to its requested budget as directed by the County Council in required state budget categories.
The total number of positions in the FY 2009 Operating Budget will be about 66 fewer than the number of positions in the current FY 2008 budget. Of this net reduction, 54 positions will be eliminated from central services and 12 positions will come from school-based operations. But because the Board’s FY 2009 Operating Budget requested an additional 181.6 positions—including 105.2 positions for budget initiatives—the total number of positions in the budget for next year will reduced by about 248 from the Board’s original budget request.
About 56 of those positions will be needed for the budget initiatives approved for next year. Another 70 positions will be required to accommodate enrollment increases in special education and English for Speakers of Other Languages. Enrollment increases of 540 regular education students will have to be absorbed as well.
These needs are being met by realigning and reducing other areas. A significant proportion of the reductions will come from central services and support functions, for a total of $18.3 million. This includes a net reduction of about 26 full-time employees and $5.1 million. The reductions will be accommodated in part by organizational changes, including discontinuing the Collaborative Action Process, and eliminating vacant positions. All employees whose jobs will be eliminated as part of the reorganization will be offered alternate positions.
Reductions also include deferring $4.8 million in proposed new initiatives and $1.2 million related to the closure of Mark Twain School. Previously, at its May 22 meeting, the County Council reduced the amount MCPS was required to contribute to the Retiree Health Benefit Trust Fund by $13.9 million, so that amount is also included in budget reductions approved by the Board.
Remaining reductions totaling about $14.2 million will be made from other school-based resources. Total reductions will include 156 positions ($9.9 million), most of which are currently vacant, including teachers, elementary principal interns, assistant school administrators, media assistants, paraeducators and building service workers. Other school-based reductions totaling $4.3 million include cuts in professional part-time salaries, stipends, consultants, instructional materials, equipment and related employee benefits.
Some changes will need to be made to ensure that the loss of positions does not impact gains made in student outcomes over the past few years. For example, more teachers who have had release periods this year will be required to teach one or two more classes. Teachers will be moved from classes and schools where class sizes are small to schools with oversized classes in August and September.
“Next year, we will have to do an even better job of managing our resources so that the changes in class size are minimal,” Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said. “I am confident that our staff will be able to accomplish this and limit the impact on our students and our strategic initiatives.”