Recommended Capital Budget Plan is Released

October 28, 2005
Superintendent's Recommended Six-Year Capital Budget Plan Will Add Classroom Space
and Reduce the Use of Portable Classrooms

Superintendent of Schools Jerry D. Weast recommended a six-year construction plan to the Board of Education Friday to address the overdue need for additional classroom space in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to reduce the reliance on portable classrooms.

The recommended FY 2007 Capital Budget and FY 2007-2012 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) take advantage of a leveling off in enrollment to try to reduce the significant shortages in school capacity. This year, 17,000 students attend classes in 719 portable classrooms.

“If we do not address the need for additional school capacity in this capital program, these 'temporary' classrooms may become permanent fixtures at our schools,” Weast said.

During the past decade, the school system has built 14 schools and constructed numerous additions to other schools. Next fall, MCPS will open five new schools--one high school and four elementary schools. Still, the construction of additional space has not kept pace with enrollment growth and, more recently, with class-size reduction initiatives. Student enrollment increased by 42,620 students from 1987 to 2002, an average increase of more than 2,800 students per year.

Over the last three years, enrollment growth has slowed considerably. This trend is a result of lower birth rates in the 1990's and higher housing costs, forcing many young families to seek housing in more affordable areas.

The capital budget proposals, if approved by the Board of Education and the Montgomery County Council, would increase the FY 2007 Capital Budget to $267.5 million, an increase of $82.5 million over the amount approved by the County Council for FY 2006. The six-year CIP would increase by $239 million, to $1.172 billion. The increased budget is due primarily to significant increases in construction costs.

The Board of Education will hold a work session on Nov. 2 to discuss the superintendent's CIP and boundary recommendations. Public hearings on the recommended Capital Budget and CIP and boundary recommendations are set for Nov. 9 and 10. The Board is scheduled to take final action on Nov. 17.

Over the next six-year period, the recommended capital improvements would provide for:

§ Construction of one high school and six elementary schools.
§ Modernization of four high schools, three middle schools, and nine elementary schools.
§ Construction of 14 additions to elementary and high schools.
§ Planning/construction for six new elementary school additions.
§ Construction of 30 elementary school gymnasiums for all existing, new, and reopened schools.
§ Core improvements at one high school and two middle schools.
§ Funding for various systemic projects.

In addition, a supplement to the capital plan includes a recommendation to form a site selection committee in 2006 for a new central area high school that would provide relief for overcrowded high schools in that area (Gaithersburg, Quince Orchard, Northwest, and Wootton). A request for funding for such a high school will be considered for a future CIP recommendation, depending on enrollment trends.

The budget also increases funding to replace roofs, upgrade heating and air conditioning, improve indoor air quality, and address safety and security needs.

The recommendations include two elementary school boundary studies to be conducted in spring 2006, one for the replacement facility for Seven Locks ES and the other for the new Downcounty Consortium ES #28.

Overall, total expenditures in the recommended FY 2007 Capital Budget and FY 2007-2012 CIP are approximately 26 percent higher than the previously approved CIP. Increased construction costs are the primary reason for the budget increase. The global demand for metal products, concrete, and other materials have significantly increased construction costs for MCPS and other entities. Other factors that have shaped this budget plan include enrollment patterns, school capacity needs, and local and state funding levels.

The funding recommendations are built on combined revenue sources including securing a reasonable amount of state aid and a change in the county's Spending Affordability Guidelines (SAG) to increase the amount of available bond funding.

The total state aid request for FY 2007 is $117.9 million. There are two components to this request. First, $33.2 million is the minimum level the state is obligated to support under current provisions. Second, projects amounting to $84.7 million have not yet been approved for planning by the state, but have been approved for funding by the County Council and will be eligible for state funds if state planning approval is granted. If the state continues current practices, however, it is likely that MCPS will receive funding only for projects that currently have state planning approval. If this is the case, then additional county funds would be needed to supplement state aid, or project schedules would be delayed.

FY 2007 is the first year of the biennial CIP review process. All CIP projects are considered in odd-numbered fiscal years, and amendments are considered in even-numbered years. Therefore, the recommended CIP will receive a full review by the county executive and County Council.

After the Board approves the budget, it goes to County Executive Doug Duncan, who will issue his Capital Budget Plan in January. The Council will conduct hearings and work sessions in the spring. Final adoption of the Capital Budget and CIP should occur in May 2006.

The complete FY 2007 Capital Budget and FY 2007-2012 Capital Improvements Program is available at the link below.

<<Back to browse