Operating Budget Released

Superintendent Dr. Joshua P. Starr released his Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Operating Budget recommendation after receiving input from more than 200 students, staff, parents and community members.

Dr. Starr is recommending a budget of $2.282 billion for 2015, which is an increase of 2.5 percent from the 2014 budget.

85 percent of the budget is devoted towards the growing enrollment of 2,721 student’s county-wide. $21.9 million of the budget will accommodate these changes through an additional 178 elementary and middle school teaching positions, eight positions to serve English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students and 75 positions for special education services. $27.4 million will go towards salary costs and benefits as well as pensions for retired employees.

MCR-SGA President and Seneca Valley HS senior Carmen Huynh received 740 survey responses on students’ views on budget priorities.

“The most highly-demanded budgetary priority [for respondents] was the addition of more teachers and decreasing class size,” Huynh said.

To narrow achievement gaps, $3 million will go towards the purchase of new technology, mainly tablets, to deliver new state assessments.

“While this technology is necessary to accommodate the new PARCC assessments … and technology makes school more engaging, I believe that education is reliant on the teacher over the technology available in the classroom,” Huynh said.

While the addition of new technology such as audio book devices in the media center can help students learn, RHS Media Specialist Sherry Weiss believes that teaching should still remain the priority.

“Obviously we need to update our technology, but I can’t place [technology] over teaching because you can’t get anywhere without good teaching,” Weiss said.

$800,000 will go towards salary supplements that encourage teachers to move to or stay in high-need schools and $947,109 toward an increase in counselors, school psychologists and personal workers.

Nine percent of survey respondents prioritized more counselors and school psychologists, according to Huynh.

“Actually, most students I’ve spoken to did not know that MCPS had psychologists. Ultimately, I think that this shows the disconnect between the students and these support staff,” said Huynh.

Dr. Starr also aims to improve community partnerships that aid students and families impacted by poverty.

“I am grateful for the collaboration with our employees and parents that led to the development of a responsible budget that balances our fiscal responsibilities with the needs of our students and staff,” said Dr. Starr.