Thursday, December 4, 2014

Children and Teachers Frozen While Board Members Party On

Superintendent Josh Starr is putting tight restrictions on classroom expenditures, as reported by The Gazette this week.

Only necessary expenditures.

Does your school have an open teaching spot?  Due to turnover or expanded enrollment?  Sorry, long term substitutes will be the new normal in the classroom.

Lose your principal or building services manager?  Too bad, the replacement will be a lower cost model.

Only temporary part time personnel will be special education paraeducators, lunch time aides, and interpreters.

The good news?  MCPS will still supply soap and toilet paper.  Lets hope MCPS keeps the buildings heated too.

What's not cut?  No mention is made of the travel, meetings, and food budget for the Board of Education members or the high level staffers such as Dr. Starr.

Will Dr. Starr get to keep his car?   Of course.

Will the Board of Education members still eat cake?  Or keep fiddling to the music while our school kids go without?

Yes, it sounds like our school system is being run by Marie Antoinette or Nero.  Or both.

Have no fear - the school system will still have a surplus of $16 million dollars at the end of the year.

You decide.

Montgomery County schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr is putting spending restrictions on the school district starting Dec. 1 to save money for the next fiscal year.
The restrictions are being made in light of a projected “funding gap” in Montgomery County Public Schools’ fiscal 2016 operating budget, Starr said in a letter on Wednesday to Montgomery County Council President Craig L. Rice.
The new measures affect contracts, employee hiring and non-school-based office supplies, among other things.
Starr said the expected savings will help increase the system’s fund balance. Money from that balance can be put toward the next budget.
“Offices and schools will be expected to make only necessary expenditures,” Starr wrote in the letter. “Certain exemptions are permitted to ensure that MCPS maintains high-quality instruction for all our students both this year and next.”
Larry Bowers, chief operating officer for the school system, said in an interview that the restrictions are “pretty broad” and apply to many budget items not directly related to instruction. Schools can request exceptions.
Asked about the size of the projected funding gap, Bowers said he couldn’t “get  into specific numbers” because school officials have not yet finished the fiscal 2016 budget.
Among the restrictions, the system will not fill vacant classroom-teacher positions with permanent employees, Bowers said. Schools will instead be able to hire substitute teachers.
For other jobs that involve teaching but are not in the classroom — such as counselors or staff development positions — the system will require schools to request a spending exemption, even for a substitute, Bowers said.
Schools can hire only temporary part-time employees for certain other positions, including special education paraeducators, lunch-hour aides, and interpreters, according to a memo from Bowers on Monday.
Other empty positions, including those for principals, assistant principals and building service managers, will be filled only through assigning a current employee at a lower level to a vacant position.
The memo says “any position vacancies that have been advertised and any interviews scheduled are exempt.”
Offices also can’t make “new contractual commitments” with several exceptions, including those for emergency repairs, waste disposal, and speech, language and interpretation services.
“Each office must review contractual service encumbrances to see if they can be canceled,” the memo says.
Schools still can purchase necessary textbooks and supplies, Bowers said. Offices not based in schools, however, will have their supply accounts frozen.
Spending will continue on materials and supplies in certain areas, including building services, maintenance work, vehicle maintenance and printing. Bowers emphasized that basic supplies such as soap, toilet paper and cleaning supplies will still be purchased.
Schools still will spend money on clubs and after-school activities, Bowers said.
Other spending freezes include non-local travel and furniture purchases.
Bowers said the school system has put in place “a fairly extensive process” for managers, principals and others to submit an expenditure for review.
“Exceptions to the freeze are permitted only for emergencies or other absolutely unavoidable expenditures if authorized by the chief operating officer,” the memo says.
Bowers said school officials are taking into account projected state and county budget shortfalls, as well as the experience of funding the fiscal 2015 budget.
School officials expect the system will need to pull a significant amount of money from its fund balance for the next fiscal operating budget, he said. About $38 million from the balance was used to fund the fiscal 2015 budget.
The fund balance stood at around $1.2 million this past summer, at the end of fiscal 2014, the memo says. Recent projections show the district ending the current fiscal year with about $16 million in that pool of money.

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