WASHINGTON - Montgomery County School Superintendent Joshua Starr says parents have high expectations and with his $2.2 billion budget, he's making this clear: He intends to deliver.
"Education is a signature element in the Montgomery County 'brand,'" he said as he sat down to brief reporters and unveil his 2014 budget.
Even before the spending plan for the next fiscal year was formally released, the Montgomery County Council president, Nancy Navarro, issued a release pointing out that Starr's spending request exceeds a state-mandated level by $10 million.
The council has signaled that boosting spending could force the county to keep pace with a state funding formula, even as the county becomes liable for an increased budget burden: This year the county will have to pay a share of teacher pensions.
Teachers are state employees and, in the past, the state paid the entire pension bill. That changed with legislation last year that pushes more of the pension burden onto the counties.
Starr says his budget request is less than 0.5 percent above the state-required "maintenance of effort" formula, which requires local governments to provide public schools with a consistent level of funding for each student as a condition for state aid. Starr added that in the past, the council supported the school system's requests.
This year, Starr says, "If (the council members) are unable to find ways to support this most crucial element of Montgomery County, then we will have to find other ways to do what's needed for our kids and our families."
Starr's $2.2 billion budget doesn't call for pay raises for teachers.
Last year, for the first time in three years, teachers got a pay raise. On average, teachers got raises of 3.4 percent. Starr says this year, he's not requesting any added compensation.
The budget does add some staff:
- Five music teachers at the elementary level
- 30 "focus" teachers in middle schools
- Restoring staff development teachers
- Adding some administrative staff for three elementary schools where the population's exceeded 950 students
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