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County education committee makes final budget recommendations

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Published on: Thursday, May 09, 2013

By Holden Wilen

ROCKVILLE – The County Council’s education committee, chaired by Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, finalized its recommendations for the school system’s fiscal year 2014 budget, which will cost taxpayers more than $2 billion.

In order to comply with state law, the county will make a contribution at the maintenance of effort level of $1.41 billion. The county will also contribute more than $34 million for pension costs. Councilman Phil Andrews said the state shifting the cost to the county is unjustified and will cost taxpayers more than $60 million by 2017.

The committee concurred with council staff and County Executive Ike Leggett in recommending that MCPS appropriate $27 million of its current fund balance to fully fund next year’s budget. The balance currently has a total of $41.7 million.

The committee also made recommendations to the fiscal year 2014 capital budget. The committee recommended adding $220,000 to the budget to fund the MCPS Board of Education’s requested increase for facility planning.

In earlier meetings between MCPS and the education committee, school officials requested $11.46 million for fixing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, as well as more money for planned lifecycle asset replacement (PLAR).  The committee ended up recommending $3.82 million for HVAC and holding off on funding PLAR.

“I think HVAC is very important,” Andrews said. “It helps maintain capacity. If it is not working, then you can have a loss of capacity from that.”

Members of the education committee also expressed their disappointment in the lack of state funding for the school system. Andrews said the county educates 17 percent of students in the state but receives less than 17 percent of the state’s funding.

“If we are consistently receiving less than that as we have been from the state, then it is putting more pressure on local taxes and spending,” Andrews said. “That should not be the case.”

Councilman Craig Rice agreed with Andrews and said the county and the school system need to work together during next year’s General Assembly legislative session to ensure the county is not getting shortchanged.

“We are going to have to be aggressive and no longer be insistent,” Rice said. “Not only are we educating the largest number of school children, but we also have the best performance of school children throughout the state. My hope is that next year, we will mount a concerted joint effort together to work with our state delegation to make sure we bring home what we rightfully deserve.”

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