Montgomery County to Cut Employee Benefits and School System

As reported by the Washington Post, the Montgomery County Council, led by Council President Valerie Ervin, has agreed on a package of cuts to employee benefits and the public school system.  The  Council is scheduled to vote on these key parts of the budget Thursday.

Under the plan, the council would cut $25 million from the $1.4 billion it contributed to the public school system this year. It would also take more control over the way the schools, and other county agencies, save to cover retiree health insurance.

The council would largely direct the school cuts to an account covering employee benefits, said Ervin, a former Board of Education member. The goal, she said, is to keep the cuts from affecting classrooms, while making sure that school employees share in countywide budget cuts.

Ervin said failing to make cuts in school funding would starve other crucial county departments that are facing cuts, including safety-net services, libraries and recreation, among others. There’s also the principle of equity, Ervin said.

For instance, the council is proposing that police, firefighters and other government employees increase their share of health care premiums by 5 percent. (Workers in HMOs would be exempted, to encourage participation in those less-expensive plans.)

The schools could save $7 million by making that same change, according to council figures, and could save $11.7 million more by changing local school pension benefits to reflect recent state pension changes.

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