Unresolved Issues Remain in MoCo's Budget Plans
After putting the budget to bed last week, Montgomery's County Council skipped town for a two-week hiatus. Even as they signed off on the spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1, there were still several unresolved issues that could reemerge in coming months.
The largest unknown is how Montgomery's school system, and more importantly the State Board of Education, will respond to the county's plan for meeting a state education funding obligation. Late in the budget-balancing game, the board denied the county's request to provide the public schools with $79.5 million less than state law requires.
That left council members scrambling for an alternative to close the gap. The council, at County Executive Isiah Leggett's suggestion, decided to charge the school system that amount to cover debt payments on school facilities projects.
Before the vote last Thursday, Bonnie Cullison, president of the association representing Montgomery's teachers, said she had "serious questions" about whether the council's response would meet the state-funding requirement.
After the vote, Schools Superintendent Jerry D. Weast was visibly miffed that the council had not guaranteed in writing that its approach was a one-year solution. The school system has until March to decide whether to "certify" that the county has met its obligation and Weast said "it will depend on the details."
"We recognize things are hard and we need to be collaborative," he said. "But we only understood this to be one time."
The final word will come from the state board of education. When asked whether the council's plan would pass muster, Chairman James H. DeGraffenreidt said it was too soon to comment. "I don't know until the process runs its course."
May 26, 2009; 12:22 PM ET
Categories: Ann Marimow , Montgomery County
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