With the money crunch intensifying, Superintendent Jerry D. Weast has mandated further spending restrictions for the rest of the school year in Montgomery County.
Teacher vacancies will be filled only by long-term substitutes. Some after-school activities and all elementary school activity buses will be cut off after April 11. Fewer teachers will be hired to write curriculum over the summer. Teachers can request school supplies during the spring, but textbooks only if they are sorely needed.
Such restrictions, budget director Marshall Spatz said, are not unprecedented, "but it's very unusual. We did similar things 10 years ago, but not this severe."
Weast's Feb. 10 directive to principals cited the "weak economic situation and risk of other unavoidable commitments later in the year" -- which have already come to pass, for example, with overtime costs from snow days and heating costs from the cold.
In October, Weast imposed a less severe set of restrictions, which have saved the system $5 million. Since then, the budget crisis has grown steadily worse, Spatz said. "The things we worried about back in October have just been confirmed by current events."
Most of the restrictions will be felt more directly by staff than students.
Employees will be reimbursed for mileage but no other expenditures, unless previously approved. The school system will not pay for professional subscriptions, seminars or conferences, except for instances in which staff members are making presentations at the conferences. Consultants will be used for teacher training activities only if a contract already has been signed.
Most open positions, such as teachers, administrators, bus attendants and special education instructional assistants, may be filled only by temporary employees. Certain high-need workers can be hired for full-time jobs, such as teachers in special education, English as a second language, physics, chemistry and Spanish; principal's secretaries; elementary school building service workers; and bus drivers.
Hiring staff on a temporary basis saves money on benefits. "Even more," Spatz said, "we're worried about making permanent commitments to people in case of problems later."