Montgomery County School Board Adopts $2.1 Billion Budget

The Gazette reports that for fiscal year 2011, the Montgomery County school board has approved a $2.1 billion budget.  Beginning July 1, the budget is characterized by an increase in class sizes, the elimination of a number of teaching positions, and an overall decrease in spending on textbooks.   The fiscal constraints and cost saving measures are the result of the school board receiving $159 million less than what they had originally requested.

“I am concerned about what next year will bring,” Superintendent Jerry D. Weast told the board during its all-day meeting in Rockville. “I wish I could say this is the end of our fiscal difficulty, but I’m afraid I can’t foretell.”

With the 6-1 vote, the board also agreed with a school system recommendation to cut $6.5 million from the central office.

When funding gets tight for the school system, county parents and activists typically press school administrators to eliminate positions in the central office rather than in the classrooms.

School board member Laura V. Berthiaume voted against the fiscal 2011 budget because of what she said was a lack of input on the spending plan.

“I do not believe that a single board member has affected this budget. I know I haven’t,” said Berthiaume (Dist. 2) of Rockville. “Why are we here? Are we merely window dressing?”

Not so, said school board Vice President Christopher S. Barclay (Dist. 4) of Takoma Park.

“I’ve got purpose,” he said. “I’m very clear that we give guidance to this budget.”

School board President Patricia B. O’Neill (Dist. 3) of Bethesda said she and then-President Shirley Brandman (At-large) of Bethesda began discussing the fiscal 2011 budget with school system officials in September, so board members had input on the spending plan.

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