Maintenance of effort passes unanimously
The Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the MCPS operating budget for the Fiscal Year 2011 (FY 2011) on Feb. 17. The budget includes funds to meet the state's maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement, which mandates that the county spend at least the same amount as spent last year per student. The per capita requirement is approximately $11,249 according to Christopher Barclay, vice president of the Board.
The operating budget, which requests funds to finance the employees of the school system, allocates $2.263 billion in total, said Barclay. According to Marshall Spatz, director of the MCPS Department of Management, Budget and Planning, the budget includes a 2.7 percent increase from the FY 2010 budget, or about $62 million. This figure is $37.1 million more than was originally proposed in superintendent Jerry Weast's recommendation in December, he said.
The Board's approved budget met the minimal standards of a MOE budget and for financial reasons includes no funding for expanded or new programs, according to Board president Patricia O'Neill.
The slight increase in the budget accounts for increased enrollment, which is typical annually, she said. There are 2,501 more students enrolled in MCPS this year, according to Spatz.
The tight economic situation makes it unclear how much funding the Montgomery County Council will approve for the budget, even though it is legally obligated to fully fund MOE budgets, according to Spatz. If the Council does not grant complete funding, MCPS will face a steep monetary penalty, said Dana Tofig, director of the MCPS Department of Public Information. "The law requires the county to meet its maintenance of effort or risk facing a fine in excess of $50 million that will be levied on the school system,” he said.
Last year, the county did not meet the MOE requirements and is currently facing a $23.4 million fine, according to O'Neill.
The Board approved the MOE budget because they understood their legal responsibility in spite of economically uncertain times, according to Barclay. "It was a very difficult budget to pass, but we have an obligation to maintain funding levels,” he said. O'Neill also sees potential difficulties in gaining sufficient finances for this budget in the current economic state. "We'll be lucky to get this funded,” she said.
Barclay said the Board's approval of the MOE will have no immediate impact because it is only a preliminary request for funding.
Weast submitted a list of areas that may be subject to budget cuts if county funding falls short, according to Board member Phil Kauffman. Until the Council allocates funding in May, the scale and nature of the potential cuts is uncertain, he said. "The Board is really taking no position on any recommendations put out by the superintendent,” he said. Any changes to the budget resulting from the Council's appropriations will not be implemented until the start of the 2011 fiscal year on July 1, according to Barclay.
O'Neill said that possible budget cuts may lead to increased class sizes, elimination of transportation for special programs, reducing sports and extracurricular activities and imposing a steeper activity fee.
Although no cuts have been made yet, Spatz said Weast's list of potential cuts is intended to give the public an idea of how much impact such changes would have. "Increasing class sizes by one student per class would save $15.4 million and eliminate 240 teacher positions. That is roughly one teacher a school,” he said.
County Executive Isiah Leggett will submit his recommendation for the budget to the County Council by March 15 and the Board will take final action in June, according to Kauffman.
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