ROCKVILLE – The Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education on Feb. 8 unanimously voted to adopt the superintendent’s amended operating budget for fiscal year 2020, which totals approximately $2.66 billion.
Not counting amendments adopted by the board immediately prior to adopting the budget, the superintendent’s amended budget is $64,246,692 greater — or a 2.5-percent increase — than the fiscal year 2019 operating budget, according to a memorandum from Superintendent of Schools Jack Smith to the school board.
“We want our school system to be defined by its capacity to ensure the success of all students and will not be satisfied until we have eliminated disparities in opportunities and performance among our entire student population,” Smith wrote in a memorandum to the board before the board meeting Tuesday.
Smith amended his proposed budget, following public hearings and work sessions held by the board and upon receiving information about how much money MCPS would receive from the state.
Said new board member Karla Silvestre, sworn in in November: “We’re approving our budget today, but there’s definitely so much more work that needs to be done. I am very much looking forward to our resource study so we can be better informed about how we invest our dollars, because they’re precious — given there’s so much need [in the school system], and so much we need to do.”
Smith wrote in his memorandum that the county’s standing in terms of the increase in student enrollment as well as the rate of change in county wealth compared to the previous year were different from the state average, which worked in MCPS’s favor for state funding. Enrollment grew at a higher rate than the state average, but wealth grew at a slower rate: — 954 students of a 2,265.5-student enrollment increase statewide attend school in Montgomery County, or 41.1 percent.
County wealth, based on September Net Taxable Income data, increased by 2.7 percent, compared to an average statewide increase of 3.4 percent. The county’s “wealth change” was the 16th largest in the state, Smith wrote.
The board of education unanimously approved at least three amendments to the superintendent’s amended budget during its meeting Feb. 12,, including adding money for part-time positions to staff after-school activities at elementary schools. The administrations of schools interested in the funding would communicate their interest, and then schools would receive funding, giving some schools prioritized consideration based on the school’s location in the county and its needs.
“I think everyone [on the board] was conservative and conscious” in the recommendations they made, board vice president Pat O’Neill (District 3) said upon adoption of the budget.
Smith wrote in his memorandum to the board for Tuesday’s meeting that he reduced the amount MCPS would request from the county, compared to the budget he presented in December. These reductions would be based on amendments he made to other funding sources, such as state revenue and the amount that MCPS itself would contribute. However, the amended budget asks for $1,733,756,569 from the county, which is $14,639,784 more that the amount state law requires — a measurement called Maintenance of Effort.
The board of education in December became the first all-women board of education in the history of MCPS school boards. New board members Karla Silvestre (at Large) and Brenda Wolff (District 5) replaced Jill Ortman Fouse and Michael Durso, respectively.
“The top priority of this amended budget is to maintain the high levels of achievement that we have for many of our students and eliminate those opportunity gaps that most heavily impact our … African American students, our Hispanic/Latino students, children who live in poverty, English Language Learners, and our students who receive Individualized Education Program services,” Smith also wrote in his memorandum to the school board..
Upon recommendation from Smith, associate superintendent Kimberly Statham said during the meeting, MCPS converted several elementary school assistant administrator positions to assistant principal positions. That “reduces the number of elementary schools with a single administrator,” and that means formerly 11-month positions will become 12-month positions.