ROCKVILLE – The Board of Education passed the $2.45 billion operating budget for Fiscal Year 2017 Tuesday with significant attention on the renegotiation of the contracts with each of the County’s education three unions.
The attention on the union contracts came after Montgomery County Public Schools officials struggled to close budget gaps while stressing the need to fund class size reduction initiatives.
Renegotiations centered on pay schedules and a step increase that had been scheduled for 2017, which will be pushed back to 2018.
The budget adds $2.31 billion in spending from FY ‘16 but came in about $41 million less than MCPS administrators originally requested from the County Council.
Along with delaying pay raises for the County’s staff, the budget allows the County to allocate $37.9 million to hiring additional teachers and para-educators as well as psychologists, counselors, parent community coordinators and pupil personnel workers.
“The board adopted a budget that includes funding to reduce class size, improve student achievement, and aggressively close the achievement gap – and the budget had 90 million more than the maintenance of effort for the first time since FY 2009” said Board of Education President Mike Durso (District 5).
The step increase, termed the make up step, had been designed to accommodate raises which were delayed due to County budget constraints in the aftermath of the 2008-09 recession.
“The county did not have enough money to implement the original agreements that had been negotiated previously and exercised its right to reopen negotiations,” Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers said.
Board members expressed disappointment about the outcome of the budget but also appreciation for the union’s willingness to sit down and discuss readjustments.
Negotiators failed to come to an agreement and the Board of Education invoked its right to automatically delay the raises without little public discussion.
Christopher Honey, a spokesperson for the SEIU 500, which represents all employees except the teachers, administrators, and principals, said the board’s actions disappointed him.
“It doesn’t really feel like [our constituents] were at the table or were asked … this wasn’t really a negotiation, the board just did what it had the right to do,” said Honey.
Speaking to potential impact on future negotiations, Honey said, “These are uncharted waters.”
The other two unions Montgomery Association of Administrators and Principals and Montgomery County Education Association which represents the teachers had significant involvement but did not return a request for comment.
Student member Eric Guerci called the budget “not only an education-first (budget) but a student-first budget.”
Just before the voting, Durso noted the budget was the last in which only the adult members will be voting.
Guerci is set to receive expanded voting rights July 1.