Montgomery Co. schools face major budget cuts due to pandemic

Montgomery County’s public schools are bracing for a major blow to funding as the Maryland county mulls deep budget cuts for fiscal year 2022 that are rooted in the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

At a virtual meeting Monday, Montgomery County school officials anticipated a loss of about $101 million for fiscal year 2022 — a decrease which would account for 3.6% of the district’s nearly $3 billion budget, and which could go up further if the school board seeks an additional $52.6 million maintenance of effort waiver.

The maintenance of effort law requires funding remain consistent from year to year when it comes to how much money county governments allocate per student.

“We have significant shortfalls that we’re going to have to deal with in the upcoming three months when putting the budget together,” Assistant Superintendent of Finance Dan Marella told the school board, adding the cut is not yet definitive but the district should nevertheless prepare for it.

Looking back, Marella said the 2007 recession left the county with a tax reduction of $188 million, a drop that was felt for years. Next fiscal year, that number is expected to hit $192 million.

A breakdown of the $101 million in cuts included a $38.4 million cut in state aid, and $27.4 million in Kirwan Commission funding cuts. Lower enrollment this year compared to the previous year by 2,400 students will also account for a dip in funding by about $36 million.

The impact will also be felt when it comes to filling vacant positions in the school district. If the cuts come to pass, some positions may be left unfilled or merged with extant ones.

“Those positions are being debated at weekly cabinet meetings, and we’re then coming to a consensus if we’re going to fill those positions knowing that we would have to take a cut somewhere else,” Marella said.

Public hearings on the proposed budget will be held Monday, Jan. 11th and Tuesday, Jan. 19th. The school board will then send the budget to the county council come February.

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