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Dec. 18, 2007

Weast unveils recommended operating budget for FY 2009

by Alisa Lu, Online News Editor
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Jerry Weast revealed his $2.1 billion recommended operating budget for the fiscal year (FY) 2009 on Dec. 13 at Rockville High School. The recommended budget, which the MCPS Board of Education will vote on Feb. 5, called for a $110 million increase over FY 2008, the lowest percentage increase in 12 years, according to a Dec. 13 MCPS public announcement.

Due to the current slump in the housing market and recent efforts by the state and county government to alleviate budget deficits and cut spending, Weast asked for an increase of only 5.6 percent over FY 2008's $1.985 billion budget lower than the 7.6 percent average increase in the past eight years, according to the announcement. "We are sensitive to the current economic climate and that's why our request is the smallest percentage increase we've asked for in more than a decade," Weast said in his speech.

Budget by numbers

Eighty-nine percent of the budget increase - $96.5 million will go towards salaries and benefits for 22,000 MCPS employees. This figure will also fund the five percent salary increase for teachers negotiated by the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), Service Employees International Union Local 500 (SEIU Local 500) and Montgomery County Association of Administrative and Supervisory Personnel (MCAASP) last fall. The salary increase for MCPS employees fluctuates slightly from year to year and was 4.8 percent last year, said to MCPS Budget Director Marshall Spatz.

Other focuses of the budget increase include $5 million for middle school reform, including the continuation of magnet programs at Argyle, Parkland and Loiderman middle schools and the development of 21 additional middle school courses, $3.5 million for additional hiring of elementary school assistant principals, counselors and parent-community coordinators and $1.5 million for improving the special education programs, according to the same Public Announcement.

Weast and his budget team based these numbers on community input at forums. "A lot of people came to support reform in middle schools. A lot of people came to support special education," Spatz said. "We took that input and tried to put it in the budget."

Of the entire $2.1 billion budget for FY 2009, 79.3 percent will go towards instructional programs, 15.3 percent will go towards school support, 2.7 percent will go towards systemwide support and 2.7 percent will go towards miscellaneous expenses, such as food service, according to the MCPS Public Information Office web site (homepage).

The breakdown remains relatively the same as the FY 2008 budget, where 80 percent went towards instructional programs, 14.6 percent went towards school support, 2.7 percent went towards systemwide support and 2.7 percent went towards miscellaneous expenses, the MCPS Public Information Office reports.

The percentages undergo minor changes every year and the overwhelmingly largest portion of the budget is allocated for instructional programs, according to Spatz. "We put our priority on classroom instruction," he said. MCPS is one of the biggest spenders on instruction and one of the smallest spenders on central administration in Maryland, Spatz said.

The village voice

MCPS collected feedback on the operating budget from the community at forums held last fall. In total, 79 individuals, including parents, community members, students and staff members testified at the forums, which were attended by 440 people, according the "The Citizen's Budget FY2009," a document released by MCPS to educate the public about the budget.

Community members will be able to voice their opinions on the recommended budget at the MCPS Board's budget hearings on Jan. 9 and Jan. 16. Anyone who wishes to speak at the hearings must sign up by calling the Board. On Jan. 23 and Jan. 24, the Board will discuss the budget at its worksessions before voting on Feb. 5.

Weast's speech will be aired on MCPS Cable Channel 34 every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday in both December and January. For specific times, consult the MCPS budget homepage.

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  • Eli Barnett on December 19, 2007 at 11:11 AM
    Spend more on the lunches!

    You owe it to us to at least supply us with palatable lunches, not high-calorie, industrial grade slop.

    I bet the superintendent doesn't have to eat the food that they give us at school, right?
  • ... on December 20, 2007 at 9:58 PM
    why wasn't this up here 5 days ago??
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