Superintendent Recommends $2.4 Billion FY 2016 Operating Budget

December 9, 2014

Recommendation focuses on managing growth, narrowing gaps, and preparing students for the 21st century

Superintendent Joshua P. Starr is recommending a $2.4 billion operating budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, which includes $103.6 million in additional spending that will allow Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to manage its continued growth, narrow achievement gaps, and prepare students for the future.

Dr. Starr presented his recommendation to the Montgomery County Board of Education on Tuesday (December 9, 2014), emphasizing it is part of a multiyear budgeting strategy that began in FY 2014.

“My budget recommendation builds on the investments we have made the past two years to ensure we are serving our students to the highest level,” Dr. Starr said. “I am recommending a budget that will allow us to keep up with our growing enrollment, while ensuring that all students have the skills and knowledge they need to be prepared to thrive in their future.”

Most of the $103.6 million spending increase will be used to provide the same level of services to a growing number of students; fund ongoing salaries and benefits; and manage increasing operational costs. The recommendation includes $8.2 million in strategic priority enhancements that are focused on improving student performance while narrowing achievement gaps. Dr. Starr’s recommendation also includes $23.3 million that will be needed to replace the one-time revenue source the Montgomery County Council used to fund retiree benefits in the FY 2015 budget.

Dr. Starr’s recommendation reflects the Board of Education’s budget interests and significant input from a broad array of stakeholders. This included staff, parents, students, and community members who were a part of three budget teams—one each for elementary, middle, and high schools—and provided input on specific areas of need.

The recommended budget also was built in partnership with representatives from the three MCPS employee associations—the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals (MCAAP), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500—as well as the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (MCCPTA).

“The involvement of our employees and our parents in the budget-building process ensures we stay focused on a budget that will really improve teaching and learning and truly benefit our students,” Dr. Starr said. “I am grateful for the commitment and continued collaboration of our employee associations and MCCPTA.”

The Board of Education will hold public hearings on the budget on Thursday, January 8, and Thursday, January 15. The Board will then hold two work sessions on the budget before submitting a final FY 2016 Operating Budget Request to the Montgomery County Executive and the Montgomery County Council in February.

“We appreciate the hard work and collaboration that went into creating this budget recommendation,” said Patricia O’Neill, president of the Board of Education. “We look forward to hearing from the public on Dr. Starr’s recommendation, as we seek to build a budget that meets the needs of our students, staff, and community.”

Highlights of Dr. Starr's Recommendation

Managing Growth

Enrollment in MCPS this school year is 153,852 students, an increase of more than 2,500 students compared with last year and more than 12,000 students over the past six years. The growth is expected to continue in the coming years, with enrollment next school year projected to be 156,514 students—an increase of more than 2,600.

While overall enrollment is growing dramatically, the number of students needing services to ensure their success—such as free and reduced-price meals (FARMS) and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services—is growing even faster. Since FY 2009, overall enrollment has grown by 10.5 percent, but during the same time period the number of students receiving FARMS has increased by 43.5 percent and ESOL enrollment has grown by 32 percent.

In order to manage the projected growth in FY 2016, Dr. Starr is recommending $19.6 million to add more than 275 positions, including 111.4 general elementary/secondary positions, 96.3 positions for special education services, 41.5 positions for ESOL instruction, and 25.3 positions for student transportation.

Dr. Starr’s budget also includes a $75.2 million increase to fund ongoing salary and benefits costs. This includes 2 percent general wage increases for MCPS employees and step or longevity increases for qualifying employees. Part of this increase is offset by savings generated by an increase in the amount that employees contribute to their health benefits.

The budget recommendation also includes a $6.2 million increase in operational costs, such as supplies and materials, utilities, and inflation. The increase in the budget is offset by $5.6 million in efficiencies and reductions.

A Multiyear Strategy

Dr. Starr’s recommended budget is built upon the values, mission, and core purpose of the district’s Strategic Planning Framework, Building Our Future Together, which identifies the three competencies students need for success in the 21st century—academic excellence, creative problem solving, and social emotional learning.

The budget is aligned to the five core strategies the district is using to implement the Strategic Planning Framework: academic rigor and culturally proficient instruction; equitable funding and support; human capital management; community engagement; and operational excellence and continuous improvement.

“The strategic investments in my recommended budget build upon the work we have done the past two years to ensure our students and staff have the resources they need,” Dr. Starr said.

The budget recommendation continues the district’s long-standing practice of providing additional funding to the elementary schools most impacted by poverty. These additional funds—an average of $1.9 million per school—are used to reduce class sizes in core areas and provide more individualized support to students.

Over the past two years—FY 2014 and FY 2015—the Board of Education has built on these investments through a series of enhancements designed to help the district increase student performance and narrow achievement gaps. These investments have included more than 50 mathematics and English secondary school teachers to lower class sizes in high-need middle and high schools; 17 elementary mathematics teachers; 10.5 English language development teachers in middle schools; 23.5 counselors, school psychologists, and pupil personnel workers; and a significant investment to increase school-based teacher leadership and professional development.

The $8.2 million in strategic priority enhancements in Dr. Starr’s FY 2016 budget recommendation invests in five key areas: focused efforts to improve student achievement and close the achievement gap; improving the student services model; increasing support to students with disabilities; supporting English language learners; and enhancing school leadership and administrative support. Among the recommended investments in these five areas:

Focused efforts to improve student achievement and close the achievement gap

  • 5.0 elementary school math coaches to improve early grade math proficiency ($339,000);
  • 6.8 positions to continue districtwide efforts to improve middle schools ($1 million);
  • 5.0 positions to increase high school staff development teachers from 0.6 FTE to 0.8 FTE ($374,125);
  • 2.0 equity specialists to support cultural proficiency and equitable practices in school improvement efforts ($159,230);
  • 6.0 positions to improve instruction for students who temporarily can’t attend school due to illness or another reason ($255,550); and
  • Expanding ACES program for 9th and 10th grade students in five schools ($250,000)

Improving the student services model

  • 3.5 elementary school counselors, 5 school psychologists, and 4 pupil personnel workers to increase staffing for Coordinated Service Teams and lower caseloads ($1.1 million); and
  • 5.5 counselors to provide additional staffing for high schools that are most impacted by poverty ($463,000)

Increasing support to students with disabilities

In addition to the 96.3 positions added for growth, Dr. Starr is recommending:

  • 4.5 positions to increase Learning and Academic Disabilities services at 18 elementary schools ($356,490);
  • 6.0 teachers and 0.4 paraeducator to expand services to students in their home elementary school ($570,654); and
  • 1.0 position for High Incidence Accessible Technology Team ($72,478)

Supporting English language learners

In addition to the 41.5 ESOL positions added for growth, Dr. Starr is recommending:

  • Increased training in the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, a successful, research-based method in providing instruction to English language learners ($36,032);
  • Two 0.5 FTE communications specialist positions to increase translations in Spanish and Amharic ($85,268)

Enhancing school leadership and administrative support.

  • 2.0 assistant school administrators to provide administrative support at two large, high-need elementary schools ($258,510);
  • 2.0 assistant principals for moderate-sized elementary schools ($293,770)
  • Converting 16 assistant school administrators to assistant principals at high-need schools to provide more coaching and evaluation to teachers and staff ($282,080); and
  • Increased part-time clerical hours for elementary schools ($167,259)

Other enhancements in Dr. Starr’s recommended budget include:

  • 8.0 positions to continue teacher position restorations to small- and mid-size elementary schools ($600,000);
  • Funds to provide athletics trainers at all high schools, building on a successful pilot program this school year ($329,000);
  • Funds to launch a comprehensive effort to diversify the MCPS workforce ($225,000); and
  • $250,000 for the Children’s Trust, a collaborative effort to serve students across the county.

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