School spending in Montgomery County will grow by at least $100 million over the next four years, an increase driven by state laws that tighten requirements for annual local funding and shift part of teacher pension costs to counties, officials said Tuesday.
Montgomery spends roughly half of its $4 billion operating budget on K-12 education. But a County Council staff analysis found that state mandates created by the General Assembly in 2012 could turn education funding into what one council member called “a runaway train.”
Last year, state lawmakers approved a proposal by Gov. Martin O’Malley that shifted part of teacher pension costs to the county level. Maryland is among the many states facing vast, unfunded liabilities in their employee retirement programs. A 2010 study by the Pew Center on the States estimated that states are at least $1.4 trillion short of meeting their commitments for retirement benefits. Montgomery’s required annual contribution to teacher pensions, $27.2 million in the current fiscal year, will grow to $44.3 million in fiscal 2016.