Dr. Annie Whittaker, Deputy Superintendent of MCPS presented information on the 2023-24 school year, providing an overview of what was accomplished for students, employees, and staff with the school’s budgetary funds along with looking towards a proposed next year’s budget based on current state funding.
Montgomery County Public Schools provided a 5% salary raise for employees in the fall of 2023, with an additional 2% raise that will appear in paychecks beginning in the first month of 2024.
“We were able to provide salary corrections for individual staff members after completion of a staff study that was conducted by the human resources department that allowed individuals who had been placed differently. So, one year being given one year of experience for two years of experience, it was able to place them correctly on those scales,” Whittaker said.
Self-funded health insurance, without an increase in premiums, along with hiring four full-time athletic trainers and four additional custodians were also part of the current academic year’s budget.
A decrease in student population is forecasted for the next academic year, 2024-2025, with a total of 9200 students. That is a reduction of 364 students, according to Whittaker.
“Based on the governor’s proposed budget that we are going to receive an additional $5.4 million in funding from the state,” Whittaker said. “It does fund the staffing requirements of the Literacy Act. It provides a 1% bonus in fiscal year ’25, with a proposed 2% salary increase in fiscal year ’26. There is also funds to bolster the teacher retirement fund.”
Superintendent Dr. Bernard Bragen said, “First and foremost is to continue the programs that we currently have and make sure that we can ensure we’re providing the highest caliber of quality educational programs for the student, all of our students, within the County and that we’re adhering to our strategic plan.”
Other important issues Bragen pointed out to the school board members were the need to discuss a potential 5% raise for employees to remain competitive in maintaining and recruiting instructional staff and employees. Additionally, in response to previous County employee comments, there is a need to increase pay for some staff members who are currently making less than $15 an hour, which Bragen said is “not appropriate”.
Paraprofessionals and nurses had expressed concerns about their workdays not matching their paid hours and Bragen stated that this should be addressed as well in the upcoming budget.
Additional items discussed by Bragen were the inclusion of costs for custodial materials and adjustment of pay schedule for custodial staff from monthly to bimonthly. The purchase of eight new school buses will be added to the county’s approximate fleet of 120 total as part of the new budget plan.
To meet with the educational plans and growth for the county, Bragen said, “access to a wide variety of CTE courses, robotics, drones, pharmacy tech, cosmetology, welding, cybersecurity, culinary arts, just to name a few. Our students have access to rigorous DE and AP courses that are all offered in all content areas. We have elementary and secondary coaches to support our teachers, particularly our new and provisionally licensed teachers.”
These were among many other initiatives that the next year’s proposed budget plan hopes to achieve.
The aggregate total from last year’s budget was a total of just under $135 million.
“The ask we’re using this year is $147.5 million, it’s about $5 million, $5.4 million increase in state aid,” Bragen said. “The ask from the county would be $58,400,000.”
The operating budget is separate from the school nutrition fund, which is expected to be $5.6 million, according to Whittaker. Whittaker also explained the process moving forward for the approval and adoption of the proposed budgetary plan by the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors.
On Feb. 6, a presentation of the Superintendent Statement of Need will occur, and on Feb. 26, the County Board of Supervisors will be presented with the County School Board’s funding requests.
The Board of Supervisors will then hold a budget adoption meeting at their April 9 meeting, followed by a budget public hearing on April 16. May 7 will mark the final annual budget approval.
Whittaker reminded everyone that these numbers can change and are based on what figures are provided by the Governor at this time. State funds can change in the future, and even as late as September of this year, Whittaker said.
School board members were asked to respond to the current proposed budget with questions, with Penny Franklin speaking first on both the need for a more detailed proposal as well as concerns about an across-the-board wage increase of staff to $15 an hour.
“I appreciate the increase for our custodians and aids to a minimum of $15, but for me that questions employees who have been working for the district for many, many years and now the salary of a starting employee will be the same as someone who’s been here for many years,” Franklin said. “Unless you can tell me that there is a scale where our employees have been compensated for their service throughout the years already.”
Other board members shared their concerns about needing more detailed information to move forward with the budget, especially in the short time they are being asked to review the 53-page booklet, which is expected to be by the next Board meeting in a couple of weeks.
Bragen and Whittaker plan to share a more detailed spreadsheet with in-depth information on the line items within the proposed FY 2024-25 budget.