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Montgomery council education panel approves financial plan for schools

The Montgomery County Council’s education committee approved a financial plan for the school system Thursday that would use surplus money from this year’s budget to pay for the Board of Education’s requested $10 million spending increase for fiscal 2014.

The committee also agreed to give the school system more money for building improvements, increasing the capital budget by about $4 million.

The recommended spending plan still needs final approval from the full County Council, which is expected to review the capital and operating education budgets in a work session May 13. The education committee recommended an operating budget of about $2.2 billion for fiscal 2014.

By using surplus funding, the County Council can still give the school system $10 million more for operating costs next year, but doesn’t commit the county to going above “maintenance of effort.” Under state law, Montgomery must spend at least the same amount it did per pupil compared to the year before. Any increases above maintenance-of-effort automatically increases the spending base for the following year.

The Board of Education had also requested an additional $14 million in capital money for fiscal 2014 to pay for improving school buildings and updating sagging heating and cooling systems. But the education committee agreed to about $4 million of the request.

About $3.8 million would pay for maintaining heating and cooling systems in schools. Another $220,000 would pay for planning projects as Montgomery County schools deals with enrollment growth.

The county expects another 10,000 students to enter the system over the next six years.

Lynh Bui is a Prince George's County public safety reporter and former Montgomery County education reporter.

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