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by Judith Hruz
Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack R. Smith is recommending a $2.713 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2022, a budget he says is a reflection of the school system’s “goals and commitment to an excellent education for all students.”
Smith says the recommended budget allows the district to provide a continuation of key services and reflects the deep impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on operating costs and projected revenues.
The budget recommendation is a decrease of $42.6 million, or 1.5 percent, compared to the current fiscal year.
“We must be united for our future if we are to be ready for next year,” he said in his presentation of the budget.
The first operating budget public hearing is set for Jan. 11. The first budget worksession will be held Jan. 14.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has had a significant change in enrollment as a result of families selecting other sources of education, such as homeschooling, private schools or moving out of the area, school officials said.
The district’s official enrollment as of Sept. 30, 2020, is 160,564, which is more than 3,600 fewer kindergarten through grade 12 students than were enrolled in 2019.
Based on state law, that would result in a decrease of $39.8 million in local contribution revenue from Montgomery County for fiscal year 2022.
However, the district anticipates that a majority of those students will return to MCPS next school year.
Smith said the past year has been “unlike any other year in our lifetime” and reminded that the impact of students and school operations has been profound.
The coronavirus has forced schools to “reimagine and retool the way we teach and the way we learn.”
Areas of concern for the fiscal year 2022 budget include:
Decreased revenue projections for both the state of Maryland and Montgomery County;
Potential loss of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (Kirwan Commission funding);
Projected post-pandemic enrollment return of 2,500 to 3,000 students; and
Post-pandemic surge in employee health care costs due to delayed medical procedures.
Other considerations driving the budget request include:
Maintaining critical staffing levels for students returning to MCPS;
Providing mental health and social-emotional supports for students and staff;
Providing additional supports to combat learning loss and assist struggling learners; and
Making needed investments in technology to support continued virtual learning where appropriate.
The recommended FY 2022 operating budget continues the focus on students, classrooms and schools and is centered on the MCPS core purpose of preparing all students to thrive in their future, officials said.
The timeline for the FY 2022 operating budget is:
Jan. 11: Public hearing
Jan. 14: Worksession
Jan. 19: Public hearing
Jan. 21: Worksession
Jan. 25: Worksession
Late February: Tentative adoption of recommended operating budget
March 15: County executive to release recommended operating budget
May 20: Montgomery County Council to approve operating budget
June 10: Board of Education to adopt final FY 2022 operating budget
The full recommended budget is available on the MCPS website at www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments.budget.
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