ROCKVILLE, MD— Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett has proposed a $2.125 billion Fiscal Year 2011 operating budget for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)—a $137.7 million reduction from the budget submitted by the Board of Education.
"This budget, as proposed by the County Executive, will require some very difficult decisions at MCPS," said Patricia O’Neill, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education. "But these are very challenging economic times, and we must decide how to balance our budgetary responsibility with our commitment to prepare all students for the challenges of college and the workplace."
Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said he and his staff have worked with the County Executive and have already begun the process of figuring out where to cut the budget.
"My main priority is to protect the quality of the education we provide and that means protecting the school system’s outstanding staff, because they are the ones who are getting the job done," Dr. Weast said. "We will make budget reductions very carefully so we can protect the people and programs that have led to outstanding academic achievement by our students."
"Ultimately, this budget will require MCPS to spend $1,000 less per student and that will have an impact," Dr. Weast said. "As always, we will work with our employee associations and the PTAs to minimize the impact the best we can."
The County Executive’s proposed budget is lower than the state-mandated "maintenance of effort" level, meaning the county is not planning to provide the same level of per-student funding in FY 2011 as it did in FY 2010. Dr. Weast and Mrs. O’Neill both emphasized that the county will need to obtain a waiver from the maintenance of effort law in order to receive full state funding. If the waiver is not granted, the district could lose as much as $53 million in state aid.
"We don’t want to make this budget situation worse by having to pay a penalty for the county’s inability to meet maintenance of effort," Mrs. O’Neill said. "We will work with the County Executive and County Council to obtain that waiver from the state."
Dr. Weast said MCPS anticipates an increase in state aid due to an enrollment increase of about 2,800 students. Even with that extra revenue, substantial reductions will have to be made in order to meet the $137.7 million budget cut. The cuts could include:
Elimination of all contributions to the retiree health benefits trust fund ($42.9 million)
Elimination of salary increments, or steps ($25.9 million)
Increase of class size by one student at all grade levels, leading to a reduction of 252 teacher positions ($16 million)
Central services reductions ($6 million)
Other savings and reductions ($10.3 million)
MCPS has already cut its budget by more than $200 million over the past two years through hiring and expenditure freezes, central office reductions and operational efficiencies. Most notably, MCPS employees voluntarily gave up cost of living increases for FY 2010, saving the taxpayers nearly $90 million.
"Our staff has already done a tremendous amount to help Montgomery County through these difficult economic times, and we will likely have to ask them to do more," Dr. Weast said. "But we must avoid further cuts that would seriously damage our ability to provide a world-class education to the students of MCPS."