MCPS Superintendent To Roll Out Education Spending Plan This Week

MCPS Superintendent To Roll Out Education Spending Plan This Week

Education advocates worry county's projected budget shortfall will affect classroom

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Via Montgomery County Public Schools

The Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent on Tuesday will present a proposed education spending plan in the face of the county’s significant budgetary shortfall.

Superintendent Jack Smith has said his operating budget recommendation for fiscal year 2019 will not include class-size increases or hiring freezes. However, a school system spokesman said the budget will show consideration for the financial struggles the county government is experiencing.

County Executive Ike Leggett in late November asked Smith to reduce spending by 2 percent in the current year, which will run through June 30, 2018. 

“I understand the difficulty of this circumstance, but considering the significant shortfall in resources, we will need all partners to take part,” he wrote.

Leggett asked for 2-percent spending reductions from MCPS, county departments and agencies and Montgomery College after learning that the county is on track to see a budget shortfall of roughly $120 million in fiscal 2018.

MCPS spokesman Derek Turner said he doesn’t expect school district leaders will enact any draconian cost-cutting measures, but education officials might have to lean more heavily than they’d like on the system’s year-end savings.

Turner said they don’t like relying on this pot of money—called the fund balance—because it means county and state aid is insufficient to cover the full cost of local education. 

“We don’t love the idea of using the fund balance. Essentially, what we’re saying is it doesn’t really reflect what the actual cost of running the school system is. But, given the situation, we understand there’s certain steps we have to take,” he said.

This year, county funding accounted for about 66 percent of the MCPS budget, which totaled $2.5 billion. State law bars the county from lowering the per-pupil funding from year to year, but Turner said the school system can still do its part to control spending increases.      

The Montgomery County Council of PTAs has called on the county to explain the budget shortfall and to protect school system funding.

“As our enrollment continues to grow, we cannot afford to see any more cuts in the classrooms,” MCCPTA president Lynne Harris said in a prepared statement earlier this month. “As we continue to raise the expectations for our public schools, we must ensure that MCPS has the resources it needs to provide every student an education that prepares them to excel in the 21st century.”

Smith will present his budget recommendation to the public at 7 p.m. in the Rockville High School auditorium.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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