The Montgomery County Council today passed a $2.1 billion operating budget for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in Fiscal Year 2011—a decrease in funding of about $1,000 per student.
The district’s budget includes $1.41 billion in local funds, a reduction of more than 7 percent from this fiscal year, and is nearly $160 million lower than the amount requested by the Montgomery County Board of Education in February. The Board of Education will pass a final budget on June 8, which will include the cuts necessary to meet these reductions.
“These cuts will be felt by every student and every employee in MCPS,” said Board of Education President Patricia O’Neill. “However, the Board of Education will take great care to see that the impact is felt the least in the classroom.”
Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said the school system has agreed to accept these cuts because of the county’s falling revenue, even though enrollment has increased by 2,800 children, and more MCPS students need assistance, such as Free and Reduced-price Meals and other services.
“We recognize that these are unprecedented economic times, and we have worked with the county to develop a responsible spending plan for next fiscal year,” Dr. Weast said. “Despite our economic difficulties, we must stay focused on our mission and build upon the success we are having preparing our students for college and the work place.”
In March, MCPS had agreed to accept a $137.7 million budget cut, as recommended by the County Executive, and has already begun to take action to meet the reduction. Those actions include increasing class sizes by an average of one student per class, the elimination of more than 400 positions, the elimination of all raises and steps for MCPS employees, and other measures.
As the economic picture for the district became more difficult during the budget process, MCPS agreed to accept an additional $19.7 million in operating budget cuts and a $4.7 million reduction to its Capital Improvements Program budget. MCPS will also have to pay an additional $2 million in energy taxes.
“These additional budget reductions will require some very difficult decisions, but we will make these cuts as carefully as possible,” Dr. Weast said.
Dr. Weast will meet with staff and representatives from the MCPS employee associations to develop a list of recommended cuts that will be submitted to the Board of Education for consideration.
The budget, as passed by the County Council, meets the requirements of a maintenance of effort waiver approved by the State Board of Education on Tuesday. The waiver was necessary because the county is funding education at a lower per-student level in FY 2011 than it did this fiscal year. The State Board approved the waiver 7-5 on Tuesday, meaning MCPS will not face a state fine of up to $51 million.