On June 16, the Board discussed and approved the 2016 Operating Budget. Part of that dialogue and process involved listening to recommendations from county leaders. Recently, interim superintendent Larry Bowers suggested pushing back new technology in classrooms, decreasing staff positions, and reducing spending on closing the achievement gap and other initiatives.
Creating the annual budget for MCPS can often be a confusing process. While the superintendent’s recommendations start much earlier, this process officially begins when the Board of Education sends its budget request to the County Council. The County Executive then considers this submission and passes them along to the Council, which establishes how much money to allocate to MCPS after a series of public hearings and the Education Committee’s opinion. The county is also limited in its allocations by state regulations. If this amount of money is less than what the Board requested, reductions will need to be made.
Bowers’ recommendations were made alongside community groups like the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals (MCAAP), the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), and the Service Employees International Union Local 500 (SEIU).
According to MCEA executive director Tom Israel, these reductions were necessary in balancing the budget. “The cuts are unfortunate but unavoidable given the funding we’ve received from the county and the state,” he explained. Without these cuts, MCPS would be $53 million over its approved budget of $2.32 billion.
Bowers’ recommended reduction of 380 staff members would mean $25.5 million back into the budget, including the 40 office positions cut earlier this year. A major concern of this decision is that less staff positions may cause larger class sizes, and a lower quality of education.
County employees, however, will also have increased salaries as a result of a contract agreement from 2014. By pushing this compensation back by one day, the county will save over $3 million. Delaying technology programs, most notably placing more Chromebooks in schools, would also give the county about $3 million back.