County Council Agrees To 'Groundbreaking' MCPS Budget Arrangement
The Montgomery County Council on Wednesday unanimously agreed to an arrangement that fully funds the school system's requested operating budget for next fiscal year. The package -- introduced by Council President Craig Rice on Monday -- also avoids putting the county over the state's maintenance of effort law minimum. The law requires the county to fund MCPS at the same per-pupil level it did in the previous fiscal year. Going over the maintenance of effort minimum, as MCPS had requested, would have created a new minimum funding level that county officials have said could threaten the budgets of other county services. Based on the unanimous straw vote on Wednesday, the county will instead fully fund the $2.3 billion MCPS budget request by taking money from a healthcare trust for retired MCPS employees, a projected surplus in existing healthcare funds and the MCPS general fund balance. County Executive Isiah Leggett had recommended going $24 million over the maintenance of effort minimum. The MCPS budget request was $51.7 million more than the MOE minimum. "It shows a real collaboration between the Council and the Board of Education and all the stakeholders in MCPS, in a way we haven't had since I've been on the Council," said Councilmember Nancy Floreen. Rice's Education Committee recommended the arrangement on Monday. In front of the full Council, the creative budgeting didn't face much questioning. MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr did. Members of Council asked Starr about the school system's evaluation of its own programs, including ones started at individual schools meant to address the much-discussed achievement gap between white and minority students. Starr asked that the Education Committee make time for him and his staff this summer to explain how MCPS evaluates its own work. At the end of the two-hour discussion, the Council held the unanimous vote. "I think we have come up with a creative, win-win solution," Councilmember Roger Berliner said. "It's a win for our kids, a win for our schools and our taxpayers. That's hard to do. There were leaps of faith taken by both parties."