MCPS Superintendent Unveils Overview of Fiscal 2020 Operating Budget

Proposed budget includes 2.1 percent increase from previous year

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The Montgomery County Board of Education meets Tuesday night in Rockville.

Caitlynn Peetz

The Montgomery County Board of Education on Tuesday held its first discussion about the county school district’s proposed $2.65 billion fiscal 2020 operating budget.

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Jack Smith gave a “high-level overview” of his proposed budget, which includes a roughly 2.1 percent increase from the fiscal 2019 budget, which totaled $2.6 billion.

“We think we can make things work at this level, no lower than this,” Smith told the school board.

A “student, classroom and school-focused budget,” Smith said, approximately 91.2 percent of the budget funds staff salaries and benefits, which is consistent with recent years.

The school board is scheduled to discuss the proposed operating budget on Dec. 18 during an online presentation, during which the public can submit questions and comments and get answers from MCPS staff.

On Tuesday, Smith outlined key features of his proposed budget, which include:

• Continued expansion of career and technical education (CTE) programs, specifically at the Blair Ewing Center in Rockville, Seneca Valley High School in Germantown and in the eastern portion of the county;

• Expansion of post-high school alternative pathways, such as the Career Readiness Education Academy (CREA);

• Expansion of early and middle college education to increase the number of students receiving associate’s degrees while still in high school;

• An increase of $1 million in early childhood education to create more half- and full-day pre-kindergarten slots;

• Hiring more psychologists, assistant principals and English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) transition counselors.

Approximately 66 percent, or $1.7 billion of the fiscal 2019 budget was funded by the Montgomery County Council, 27 percent from the state, 3 percent from the federal government and 4 percent from other sources, according to MCPS staff. This year, MCPS is asking the county council to fund approximately $29 million more than is required by law, that mandates the level of state and local funding remain constant from year to year.

While Smith and school board members didn’t raise any worry about receiving adequate funding from the county, they all voiced concern about the future of state funding.

Much of their concern stems from a myriad of recommended education changes expected to be announced this month by Maryland’s Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission.

“I absolutely am worried about this,” Smith said, adding that the Kirwan Commission previously suggested $300 million should be cut from Montgomery County’s state funding. “I don’t think our local government is in any position to increase funding to that degree.”

Following the school board’s online forum in two weeks, the board will hold several public hearings in January, followed by board work sessions before finalizing its recommended budget on Feb. 12.

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