Montgomery County proposed budget to only give portion of Public Schools' request for teacher raises

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) Teachers in Montgomery County were disappointed Monday night after learning a request for more money to fund salary raises was not being fully funded. But it may not be the fault of the county.

Montgomery County Administrator Craig Meadows proposed a budged Monday night of $189.0 million. $108.3 million of that would go to Montgomery County Public Schools, an increase of $1.5 million dollars in operating costs and more than $600,000 in capital.

But MCPS wanted $2.3 million more in operating costs to provide raises to faculty and staff.

However, the county is seeing only $1.9 million new dollars in its whole budget for FY 2018-2019.

Meadows pointed out Monday night while more students are coming into schools, money from Richmond and Washington, D.C. is not.

“Those real dollars that are coming from the state and federal governments have really slowed and in some cases declined, which puts all the burden back on the localities to fund that difference,” he said.

According to his presentation of the $189 million, 43% is coming from state and federal designated dollars. That number used to be over 50% according to discussions Monday.

So Public Schools will be short of its request, which would have funded a 1.5% salary raise for faculty and staff.

Supervisor April DeMotts said after seeing the proposal, “I am disappointed to see that the School Board's funding request is not fully funded because I viewed that as a bare minimum request to begin with.”

It was maybe even more disappointing for the teachers in the crowd at the special meeting holding up signs reading, “I love public education,” and, “Invest in Kids!”

Matthew Fentress is President of the Montgomery County Education Association and a 5th grade teacher in the county.

He said, “We're paid $7,000 less than the national average. We continue to have the cost of living go up and our paychecks are stagnant.”

Superintendent Mark Miear still hoped Monday night the raises could still happen. But there may be other losses if so.

“We would have to pay for maintenance cost, our one-time costs, such as school buses and that type of thing, with carry over money possibly, if we have that,” he said.

The recommendation was made Monday night to reach out to state and federal politicians to get more funding for schools.

Supervisor Todd King said Monday, “I think it's time that they stood up and look at the politicians that they back and ask them to come and back you as teachers, educators, anybody that works for the school system.”

Miear said after the meeting, “At the state level, that’s where it needs to be picked up. I think our county is doing a good job in doing what they can to fund our schools without a tax increase, however the state is not.”

The county showed its offices, outside of public schools, is only taking 21% of the new money for itself, $400,237, in this new budget plan, despite requesting a total of $3,047,021.

That means the county can only make one hire in government offices, when there were 15 requests to create new positions.

There will be a work session on March 12 to discuss changes to the plan, including if the Board wants to increase taxes to bring in more revenue.

According to Meadows’ proposal there are no real estate tax increase.

However, he did point out there was a total request from county offices and MCPS for $5,369,087, and only $1.9 million in new money, an excess of 183% of available resources. As such, the county would need to approve a 4.5 cent increase in the real estate tax rate to cover those requests.

One cent on the real estate tax rate is equivalent to $775,000, according to Meadows’ office.

Another issue discussed was School Resource Officers and added security in schools following the Parkland, Florida shooting. But that request came in just two weeks ago and was too late to add to the budget.

Miear said, “We have eight schools that are not covered School Resource Officers, so that is important that we actually get officers in those buildings to protect our students. But the county is going to have to figure out a way to fund that. We do not have it in our school budget to actually fund it.

That could be changed before budget approval on April 16. Miear said he will be at the March 12 work session to talk with and answer questions with the Board of Supervisors and imagines that topic will come up.

To see the presentation made to the Board of Supervisors Monday night, click on the “FY 19 Proposed” PowerPoint under the Related Documents section of this article.

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