Bills affecting school funds move ahead

More fiscal accountability, money for repairs at issue

April 03, 2004|By Kimberly A.C. Wilson | Kimberly A.C. Wilson,SUN STAFF

Determined to prevent other public school systems in Maryland from sliding into the financial quagmire of Baltimore City and Prince George's County schools, the Senate gave provisional approval yesterday to a measure designed to bring more fiscal accountability to districts.

Lawmakers also gave preliminary approval to a bill that changes the formula used to determine how much state money should go to school districts with aging facilities.

Both bills would have to win final approval in the Senate and then in the House of Delegates next week before they could go to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

The first piece of legislation would create new layers of supervision over the financial status of school operating budgets, beginning with local school superintendents, who would be required to file quarterly reports on the financial status of their systems with the state superintendent of schools. The state superintendent and the State Department of Education would also conduct a study of school finances and report their findings to the governor and General Assembly every four months.

Failure to comply would cost a school system 10 percent of the money it would normally receive from a state school fund.

Introduced by Sen. Ulysses Currie, chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, the accountability measure would cost the state about $1.7 million next year, and $9.3 million over the next four years.

The aging-schools bill would redistribute about $10.3 million in state money to the state's 24 school systems.

The bill struck a chord with lawmakers from Baltimore County, which stands next year to lose about half of the $2.9 million they received this year to repair outdated schools.

Baltimore City, by comparison, would receive a 50 percent increase in funds, from $1.6 million to about $2.4 million.

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