SCHOOL BUDGET

Weast's Request Is Smallest in His 9 Years

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Write
Friday, December 12, 2008

Montgomery County School Superintendent Jerry D. Weast released a budget request yesterday that seeks almost level funding for the coming school year, a gesture of fiscal restraint likely to be repeated across the region's school systems in coming months.

The $2.1 billion spending proposal for the fiscal year that begins in July reflects a net increase of $40 million, or 2 percent, the smallest year-to-year bump Weast has requested in nine years as Montgomery superintendent. The budget assumes just $20 million in new local funds, all cost savings from this year that Weast would carry over as revenue for next year, and $20 million from the state, chiefly to cover enrollment growth.

"It's a flat budget," Weast said. It is the first formal fiscal 2010 spending plan for a major local school system.

Weast said he had to close a $176 million revenue gap to balance the budget. He did that by eliminating contracted cost-of-living increases for all school system employees and by cutting $36 million in projected spending across the 139,000-student system, shedding 300 jobs.

Most reductions will be felt not by parents or students but by teachers, Weast said. Many of the lost positions belong to resource teachers, who help classroom teachers deliver math or reading instruction, and staff development teachers, who provide training.

Weast said he was able to offer a balanced budget without increased cost to taxpayers and without measurable changes to average class size. Class sizes are inching upward across the Washington region as a result of budget cutbacks, which usually entail reducing the workforce.

The budget request goes to the Board of Education, then to the County Council, which, along with the county executive, funds the school system.


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