Superintendent Mark Miear told the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors that the school system needs $5 million more for the upcoming budget than it did last year.
The proposed budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year (beginning July 1) comes in at approximately $109.5 million ($4.4 million more than the funds the system expects next year) compared to $104.5 million for the current one. Miear spoke about the school district’s needs at Monday’s meeting, saying that almost half of the increases are from costs out of MCPS’s control.
Due to a state mandate, the system will have to pay an additional $1 million into the Virginia Retirement System, and to allow employees to keep their current health insurance benefits at the price they are currently paying will cost another $1.25 million, a 12 percent increase from last year.
Miear said that it is important to maintain a competitive benefits package to make up for the higher wages that surrounding school districts offer teachers.
“Our employees need to be compensated fairly if we want them to stay in our district,” he said.
Salary enhancements for teachers including a raise for teachers depending on how long the have been with the system, as well as a 0.3 percent cost of living increase for all MCPS employees would cost an additional $1.75 million.
The additional requested increases are for: $30,000 for providing Internet to underprivileged students, $250,000 for substitute costs so teachers can engage in professional development courses throughout the year, $19,000 for additional lunch coverage and $97,000 for an assistant principal at Prices Fork Elementary, $104,400 technology lifecycle increase and $84,000 for bandwidth increases.
The county has projected $2.9 million in additional revenue in the upcoming fiscal year, which if entirely allocated to the schools, would still fall short of what is needed.
Supervisor Todd King (District D) asked Miear if there was fat that could be trimmed from the budget, because the county approving it as is would mean a $0.02 property tax increase, which King seemed to oppose.
Currently, property tax rates are set at $0.89 per $100 of assessed property value, and for cent increase in that rate, the county raises an additional $762,000.
Miear said that the majority of the schools’ budget goes toward teacher salaries and that cutting costs would likely hurt teachers by having to pay for more school supplies than they already do.
“This is a conservative budget request. We actually have $10 million in needs,” Miear said. “The budget in front of you is what is needed to stay where we are.”
Supervisor Chair Chris Tuck (District B) said that whether or not he personally agrees with raising property tax rates, he would be willing to discuss the matter if that was a discussion other supervisors were interested in having.