The Montgomery County Board of Education on Thursday took the first step toward approving the next fiscal year’s $2.96 billion budget.
The proposed budget — now headed to the Montgomery County Council and County Executive Marc Elrich for review — is about $180 million more than the current year’s budget. That is a roughly 6.5% increase.
It includes some amendments made after it was initially released in December by Interim Superintendent Monifa McKnight. Many of those amendments have to do with school safety, including:
• Expanding well-being spaces: $1,161,563
• Expanding student well-being teams: $226,065
• Expanding daily social and emotional wellness time to all schools: $452,130
• Telehealth mental health services available to all students: $1,600,000
• Hiring a communications firm: $500,000
• Hiring 12 security positions that would focus primarily on elementary schools: $866,201
• Adding three cluster security coordinators: $351,030
• Adding two security training coordinators: $245,820
• Summer security training stipends: $243,950
• Purchasing 100 security cameras for elementary schools: $250,000
The original budget proposal totaled about $2.93 billion, and reflected a “same services budget,” McKnight said, referring to no new initiatives. But as the development process continued, district leaders realized that budget was not sufficient.
“We’ve had more than enough circumstances and tragedies this past month. It says that we have to really address these needs in a variety of ways,” McKnight said earlier this month.
On Thursday, she added that many of the needs are related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but some were present before. She highlighted “inequity in education” and students’ and staff members’ social and emotional needs.
“We have to, quite frankly, take our work to the next level because of the impact (of COVID-19),” McKnight said. “That says why a same services budget is not going to yield us everything that we need. This is not a same services year, and we have to treat it in that way.”
Other focus areas of the budget include ensuring every school has a full-time staff development teacher and every elementary school has a full-time reading specialist and establishing a “welcome center” for families new to the school district.
It also has funds related to opening a new elementary school in Gaithersburg in the fall.
Elrich is expected to release his recommended county budget on March 15. The County Council will vote on the budget, including the MCPS budget, in May. The school board will then do a final review process before adopting the budget this summer.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org