Elimination of negotiated pay raises for teachers and staff members is the only way to trim the proposed $314 million Montgomery County school budget to levels requested by the County Council, according to the superintendent and the school board.
The board voted this week to send to the council several alternative, lower school budgets proposed by Superintendent J. Wedard Andrews, that would cut salary increases.
The school board is required by law to submit alternative budgets to the County Council. The council has final say over the school budget and several council members expressed alarm when the school board approved. Andrews' $314 million budget, a figure $16 million over the council's proposal. Last year the council reduced the board-approved budget by $2.9 million.
But school board President Daryl Shaw claims the $314 million budget is now a "bare bones" budget without any new educational programs. Inflation and salary increases, school officials say, account for the hefty sum.
Andrews made it clear that the reductions he proposed were merely to comply with the law but did not have his approval.
"These are clearly non-recommended budgets," Andrews said of his proposed lower figures. "But there is no other way to cut $30 million out of the budget without wiping out some educational programs and hurting kids."
The alternative that would reduce the school budget figure to $298 million, the amount suggested by the council, would cut the negotiated cost of living raise from 10 percent to 3 percent.
Andrews says a $290 million budget would eliminate the remaining 3 percent raise; employe benefits would have to be cut even more to reach $283.7 million.
In a bulletin published by the county school information office this week, Andrews vows, "We'll fight for the full cost-of-living raise."
After months of negotiation, union representatives for Montgomery teachers and staff reached contract agreements with the board last month, just in time for the board to complete its budget tallies.
Montgomery County teachers, whose current three-year contract had not kept pace with inflation, had become the lowest paid in the area. Their proposed two-year contract guarantees them a 10 percent raise next year and a minimum 7 percent raise the following year or 75 percent of the cost of living increase.
"I'm confident the County Council will see that we have no reasonable alternative to the budget the Board of Education has approved," Andrews said. "Empoyes deserve the 10 percent increase, and the alternative of making the cuts elsewhere would mean the Montgomery County public school system will never be the same again."