Push for school buildings

Arundel: County must take advantage of executive's good relationship with the governor.

Agenda 2000

Anne Arundel County

March 03, 2000

Anne Arundel County officials dared not utter a complaint about the county's take from the state's school construction budget last year. And for good reason: The county received $13.2 million, a 42-percent increase over 1998.

The county, which had spent the first four years of the Glendening administration scrambling for crumbs, was finally receiving genuine slices of Maryland's school construction pie.

Was that a miracle? Or just a change in the political climate? Will the state's generosity dissolve with shifting political winds?

Don't ask. Just act.

The county started to get something close to a fair share after Janet S. Owens became county executive. She's a Democrat like Gov. Parris N. Glendening. The governor says politics has nothing to do with how he doles out public school construction money, but Anne Arundel drew short straws when John G. Gary, a Republican, was county executive.

Arundel had 9.2 percent of Maryland's population but received only 3.7 percent of the state's school construction funds during the Glendening-Gary "partnership."

Partially as a result, some older buildings are in awful shape. Children must try to learn in schools that have inadequate lighting. Some buildings need boilers, new roofs, asbestos removal, insulated windows and floors.

In total, Anne Arundel needs an estimated $400 million just to get its large stock of old buildings up to modern standards.

Making matters worse, the county's tax cap continues to constrict the amount Anne Arundel generates to pay its local share of construction costs.

The county's local and state representatives may not believe it prudent to complain or demand more from the state when things are finally going better. But with the need so great, they must keep pushing for a larger share of state construction dollars.

They also must collectively explore ways to generate local revenue and provide acceptable learning environments that too many children don't have.

And they must do it while the county's leader enjoys an amicable relationship with the person who slices the school construction pie.

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