School Board Sends $ 2.59 Billion Budget Plan to County Council

School Board Sends $ 2.59 Billion Budget Plan to County Council

Proposal decentralizes some administrative services, expands school programs

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Updated 5:11 p.m. Tuesday: The Montgomery County school board on Monday adopted a $2.59 billion budget that includes a staff restructuring, money for hiring new school counselors and psychologists and invests in extended-year programming at certain schools.

The panel voted unanimously in support of the fiscal 2019 plan, which board member Jeanette Dixon called a “student-first budget.”

The proposal increases spending by about 2.9 percent compared to the fiscal 2018 budget, reflecting the opening of a new elementary school in Rockville, enrollment growth and the addition of the eighth grade at Silver Creek Middle School in Kensington. The budget also includes increases for new programs focused on creating community partnerships, opening more access to literacy and math initiatives and adding computer coding as an elective course. Superintendent Jack Smith also designed the budget to expand career learning opportunities and dual-language programs in the school system.

“If we look at this budget as a moral document … I’m proud of where we stand. We’re a compassionate, caring board and system, and this budget reflects that,” student board member Matt Post said before the vote.

The budget planning process was not without its challenges. The county’s budget pinch presented one difficulty, with Executive Ike Leggett asking school leaders to rely more heavily then they’d planned on carryover savings from the prior year. Members of the community also spoke up with concerns about Smith’s plan to decentralize certain services to put them closer to the classroom.

While reviewing the budget, the school board scaled back some of the proposed changes, deciding to keep three of the special education cluster supervisor positions that Smith had wanted to convert to instructional specialist positions.

On Monday, Smith said he appreciated the public input and board decisions that had reshaped elements of his budget proposal.

“I think it’s a better budget because of all the processes we go through, all the people that we hear from, the advocacy groups, the staff members, the parents, and families,” Smith said.

Board member Pat O’Neill said it will be critical to continue working with parents and Montgomery County Public Schools employees to enact some of the budget’s proposed changes. But she expressed support for Smith’s work to reduce spending in central services.

“Hopefully, we’ve done it carefully, with a scalpel and not an ax,” she said.

The MCPS budget now goes to the County Council for review, with final action slated for June. MCPS spokesman Derek Turner said system leaders are hopeful the Council will approve of the school board's plan.

"I think Dr. Smith did a very good job of being very strategic with every single dollar," he said.

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

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