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Brief: School Superintendent Proposes $2.22 Billion Operating Budget

— Superintendent Joshua P. Starr released his recommended operating budget for Fiscal Year 2014 this week — proposing a $2.217 billion budget for FY 2014, which is a $48.95 million increase over FY 2013 — about 2.3 percent.

During the economic downturn, Montgomery County Public Schools eliminated more than 1,300 positions to fund teaching and support positions needed to keep up with growth. Consequently, from FY 2008 to FY 2013, the enrollment of MCPS grew by 11,000 students, but the number of staff positions remained essentially flat. Starr’s FY 2014 budget recommendation begins to restore some of these positions, while adding others, including middle schools, math instruction, and professional development.

The final budget recommendation was developed in partnership with school system’s three employee associations—the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals (MCAAP), and SEIU Local 500 —a s well as the Montgomery County Council of PTAs (MCCPTA).

The Board of Education will hold two public hearings on the budget — Thursday, Jan. 10, and Thursday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m., in the Carver Educational Services Center. Individuals wishing to testify can sign up beginning on Dec. 17 at 9 a.m. by calling 301-279-3617. The board will then hold work sessions on the budget on Tuesday, Jan. 22, and Thursday, Jan. 24, before approving a final budget request on Tuesday, Feb. 12. The budget will then be submitted to the Montgomery County Executive and County Council for consideration.

There are nearly 149,000 students in MCPS this school year, an increase of more than 11,000 students in just five years. That growth will continue as enrollment is expected to top 159,000 students by FY 2019.

At the same time, more students require specific services and support to ensure success. More than 49,300 students (33.2 percent of total enrollment) now receive free- and reduced-price meals, an increase of more than 12,000 students in just five years. Nearly 20,000 students (13.1 percent of enrollment) receive English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services, a number that has essentially doubled since 2000.

Starr’s budget includes 127 new positions to serve an additional 2,336 students, as well as 22 positions to serve 900 more ESOL students. Starr has also added $8.5 million for growth in special education, which includes funds for 101 additional positions to increase individualized services to students. An additional $900,000 has been added for special education to account for inflation and increased costs.

The recommendation also includes $7.1 million for continuing salary costs and $15.4 million to pay for benefits for current and retired employees. The money for benefits includes $7.3 million for teacher pension costs that are being transferred from the state to local school boards. There are $4.3 million in efficiencies and reductions in the budget, including further cuts to central services, which has been reduced by more than 20 percent in the past five years.