Delegate Tony McConkey's Official Blog

Three Counties Team Up For School Money

Prince George’s , Montgomery and Baltimore Counties discuss strategy to have the three counties team up to wrestle more school money from the State of Maryland.

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3 Counties Ask State For Schools Money

By Bryan P. Sears, Daily Record

The heads of the state’s three largest counties said Tuesday they will join together to develop legislation to bring additional state money for school construction projects in their jurisdictions.

But although Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz, Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III may have linked arms in principle, their announcement was short on details, including how much money the trio of counties would seek or the outline of their proposal.

“We believe that the state needs to take a serious look at ensuring that all students have the best facilities and classrooms as we prepare them for the 21st century,” Baker said in a statement.

“With our growing populations and aging buildings, it makes sense for the state to focus on such a significant percentage of Maryland’s student population — a population that also makes up a large percentage of our most needy children and families.”

The three counties are expected to craft one bill that would create a guaranteed funding source for school construction in all.

Finding the money could be tough. Both the Senate president and the House speaker said the state already provides significant funding for school construction.

“The counties may have to look within themselves,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.

That answer is less than satisfactory to Kamenetz, who said his county’s school construction needs approach $500 million.

“To suggest that we should pay for this ourselves is really absurd,” Kamenetz said.

The three Democratic executives cited aging facilities and the fact that their combined populations equal 44 percent of the entire state population and receive 46 percent of the free and reduced meals served in public schools in the state. They expect combined growth of 30,000 students by 2012.

A proposed state mandate expanding pre-school education would only add to their problems, Kamenetz said.

The hue and cry for additional school construction money by local officials is not new.

In December, both Baker and Leggett said they planned to go to Annapolis seeking the same deal Baltimore city received a year ago. In that session, legislators approved a plan in which the state and city would combine to spend about $60 million annually for 10 years. That spending would allow them to leverage $1.1 billion in construction bonds issued by the Maryland Stadium Authority.

Kamenetz, however, has repeatedly decried the use of borrowed money to leverage more borrowed money.

Kamenetz said Leggett and Baker “are aware of our approach in Baltimore County and that we would not be employing the Baltimore city model.”

The three appeared to get little sympathy from Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch.

Busch, speaking Tuesday afternoon, said the state expects to spend $627 million on construction for K-12, community colleges and four-year institutions combined in the capital budget that Gov. Martin O’Malley will introduce Wednesday.

“We’re one of five states that even allocates money for school construction,” Busch said. “We pay for 64 percent of school construction costs.

“I think school construction is an issue, but the counties can, any time they want, can raise their property taxes or other taxes and assessments and forward fund school construction,” Busch said.

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