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March 8, 2012

Board of Education releases budget

by Josh Schmidt, Print Sports Editor
The Board of Education (BOE) unanimously agreed upon and announced a $2.13 billion operating budget for the fiscal year (FY) 2013. MCPS superintendent Joshua Starr initially requested a $2.1 billion budget.

The unanimously approved budget will be sent to County Executive Ike Leggett (D) on March 1 at which time he and the Montgomery County Council will submit recommendations for revisions on March 15.

The FY 2013 budget will be a $30 million decrease from last years $2.16 billion recommended budget. If this current budget is not modified, it will be a two percent increase above the 2012 fiscal year budget.

The recommended budget will satisfy conditions set by the maintenance of Effort (MOE) law which requires counties to spend the same amount per student from one year to the next. Montgomery County has not been able to meet MOE for the past three years resulting in cuts of state funding for MCPS

The Board has tried hard over the years to maintain MOE, but the Council has failed to approve adequate amounts of funding, said Board member Phil Kauffman. The Council has decided to fund other projects of the budget instead of attempting to maintain MOE, he said.

Student Member of the Board Alan Xie said that the BOE is aware of the problems associated with MOE. "We are acutely aware of the challenges that the current law presents to the board," Xie said.

The BOE is also attempting to move the penalty of not meeting MOE away from the school a board we are going to ask the state legislature to look at moving the penalty for noncompliance away from the school system,” Xie said. "It’s been a main worry of the Board for the past four years. Really since rough economic times hit."

MCPS may not receive the full amount proposed by the BOE because of their not following MOE. The state may withhold $26.2 million in aid as punishment.

The BOE and Starr wish to have a larger budget to help cover employee benefits. Teachers have not had a salary raise in three years in order to accommodate budget cuts. In his budget presentation Starr said that he wished to "[recognize] our outstanding educators". Starr also plans on using some of the money to cover pension costs.

Kauffman thinks that helping the MCPS teachers is a high priority for the Board. "It's important we reward teachers. It’s out though that it is important to compensate [the teachers]," Kauffman said.

Xie agrees that it is a fiscal priority for the Board to give back to its many employees. "It's a really big goal of ours to ensure that we can budget money to all of our staff. They’ve all given a lot to our school system," Xie said. $2.16 billion recommended budget. If this budget is not modified, it will be a two percent increase above the FY2012 budget.

The recommended budget will satisfy conditions set by the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) law, which requires counties to spend the same amount per student from one year to the next. Montgomery County has not met MOE for the past three years resulting in cuts of state funding.

The Board has tried hard over the years to maintain MOE, but the Council has failed to approve adequate amounts of funding, said Board member Phil Kauffman. The Council has decided to fund other projects of the budget instead of attempting to maintain MOE, he said.

The BOE is also attempting to move the penalty of not meeting MOE away from the school system. "As a board we are going to ask the state legislature to look at moving the penalty for noncompliance away from the school system," Xie said.

MCPS may not receive the full amount proposed by the BOE because of their not following MOE. The state may withhold $26.2 million in aid.

The BOE and Starr wish to have a larger budget to help cover employee benefits. Teachers have not had a salary raise in three years the MCPS teachers is a high priority for the Board. "It's important we reward teachers. It's out though that it is important to compensate [the teachers]," Kauffman said.

Xie agrees that it is a fiscal priority for the Board to give back to its many employees. "It's a really big goal of ours to ensure that we can budget money to all of our staff. They’ve all given a lot to our school system," Xie said.

A level of uncertainty exists concerning Governor Martin O’Malley’s (D) proposal to move state pension costs to local governments.

Kauffman says that the BOE is unsure what will happen and that if something is changed it will force the BOE to think differently and redo the budget. If this occurs, MCPS will have even less money to work with than already.



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