Board of Education Approves $1.4 Billion Operating Budget

January 30, 2002
The Board of Education unanimously approved an operating budget request of $1.4 billion for the next fiscal year on January 29.

Although the budget request is nearly $71 million (5.3 percent) over this year's funding allowing for expansion of critical instructional initiatives including a new middle school and 13 more full-day kindergarten programs it includes $35 million in deferrals and cuts in programs and services that had been envisioned for next year.

Without changing the overall budget total, the Board approved the addition of one psychologist position for the Emotional Disabilities Program.

The deferrals and cuts in the 2002-03 operating budget are necessary because of economic conditions affecting federal, state and local funding. Since last fall, the school system has been operating under a partial freeze on hiring and expenditures in anticipation of budget shortfalls.

Program improvements

Under the FY 2003 budget, $3.2 million would be spent for ongoing initiatives. Full-day kindergarten would expand to a total of 47 schools, each with a strengthened curriculum and average class size of 15 students. The budget would fund the opening of a new middle school in the Einstein cluster and two new Centers for the Highly Gifted. Additional teachers would be hired, especially at the secondary level, and expenditures would increase for special education, students with limited English proficiency, transportation, food services and related costs.

Workforce excellence improvements would include third-year implementation of a consulting teacher initiative plus expansion of the staff development substitute teacher program. Ongoing curriculum reform efforts would continue in kindergarten through Grade 8, with new efforts to align high school requirements with more rigorous content. Technology resources would be redirected to support development and implementation of Integrated Quality Management Systems to support teachers and improve student achievement.

A growing enrollment

Much of the budget increase would be used to maintain programs and services for a growing enrollment. MCPS enrollment is projected to increase next year by about 2,000 to 138,794 students, a record-setting growth that has propelled the school system to become the largest in Maryland and the 12th fastest growing in the United States. Enrollment is projected to reach more than 140,000 students by FY 2007.

The projected growth next year accounts for almost 12 percent of the increase. Most of the budget 80.5 percent is for instructional costs, with 13.6 percent for school support services, 2.6 percent for systemwide support and 3.3 percent for enterprise funds.

Deferrals and reductions

The $12 million in deferrals will delay many of the initiatives planned for FY 2003 until additional resources become available. In addition, reductions of $23 million will be made in current operations, cutting 168 positions. A total of $16.3 million (72 percent) in reductions comes from central services and support operations. An additional $1.7 million in reductions can be made for the systemwide cost of employee benefits.

Sources of revenue

The largest source of revenue for the budget is from county funds, projected to provide about 77 percent of the FY 2003 budget.

Limited state funding projected to be only 15.7 percent of the budget is of particular concern. State aid to Montgomery County is not likely to increase, especially under recommendations of the Thornton Commission's study of education finance, equity and excellence.

Federal funding accounts for about 3 percent of the budget. The remainder is derived from fees, enterprise funds and special revenue funds.

The board will present its recommendations to County Executive Douglas Duncan and the County Council on March 1. The Council is scheduled to approve the operating budget on May 31, and the Board of Education will adopt the final budget on June 11.

A detailed description of the FY 2003 budget request is available online.

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