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Battle Expected Over Montgomery County School Budget

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The plan for fiscal 2014 is laid out for reporters by Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr.
Matt Bush
The plan for fiscal 2014 is laid out for reporters by Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr.

A potential battle is shaping up over the Montgomery County school budget. A new report was released showing modest improvements in economic indicators in the area, but council members are concerned that the proposed school budget could break the bank.

Schools superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr unveiled his budget request Tuesday morning. It does not include pay raises for unionized employees like teachers, but it does call for the restoration of many positions that had been eliminated over the past few years because of the economy.

"We are adding five elementary music teachers. We are restoring staff development teachers that had to be cut a few years ago," Starr says. "We are adding some folks who are specifically trained in mathematics, because we know math is a big issue going forward."

The school system makes the budget request, and then the county council decides how much of it to fund. The school system takes up about half of the county's budget, and state law requires that counties spend more each successive year on their schools. Council members say Starr's budget goes too far over that mandate, and would cut into the budget for county government and the parks system.

"It would not make sense at all for the county to further handcuff itself by voting for an amount that is above the required maintenance of effort level... because it is an irreversible increase," says Councilman Phil Andrews.

Starr is asking for an addition $10 million, or less than 0.5 percent, above the state-required increase.

"This community has expected a significant investment in education because education is the signature element of the Montgomery County brand," Starr says.

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