School capital budget seeks more state aid

At least $28 million expected, but more asked for

December 20, 2006|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN REPORTER

The Baltimore County school system can expect at least $28 million in state funding toward construction projects in the upcoming fiscal year, an amount that local officials say falls far short of needs, but which could still be increased.

The state's expected contribution, outlined in a report that was to be presented during last night's school board meeting, is well below the $83 million that local school officials are seeking. But it is more than some had anticipated, based on last year's experience, and could be increased by the end of the upcoming General Assembly when legislators decide how to distribute school construction dollars among the state's 24 school districts.

"It's far short of what we need," said Michael Sines, the school system's executive director for physical facilities. "It's going to take a significant amount of money for the foreseeable future to bring the system up to the standard that people would be comfortable with."

The school system is seeking a total of about $250 million in state and county funding to cover the costs of construction, renovation and major maintenance projects -- including a $69 million request from county officials to pay for future high school renovations.

"We have a lot more projects we need to be able to address," Donald L. Arnold, president of the county school board, said yesterday during an interview before the meeting. "If you own property and you defer maintenance, eventually it catches up with you, and it's going to cost you more."

Baltimore County has one of the oldest and largest building inventories among the state's school systems, said Brice Freeman, a county school spokesman.

In October, county school officials asked state officials for more than $83 million toward several projects, including construction of Vincent Farm Elementary School in the White Marsh area and renovations at several middle schools, including Deep Creek Middle School in Essex, General John Stricker Middle School in Dundalk and Hereford Middle School in Monkton.

Part of the school system's $83 million state request includes about $43 million in reimbursement for projects that have already been completed, including the construction of Woodholme Elementary in Pikesville.

In addition to its state request, the Baltimore County school system is requesting about $155 million from the county government.

Last night's presentation was based upon the most recent funding commitment from the state's construction program. School systems can appeal next month to state officials for more funding toward their projects.

Legislators generally set the state's capital budget in April, which indicates to local school systems how much money they can expect for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2007.

By last fall, the state had committed about $7 million to Baltimore County school construction projects, compared with about $21 million this fall, Sines said. By the end of the General Assembly session, that number had risen, but of the estimated $100 million that local school officials were seeking in state funding, about $35 million was allocated, according to school officials.

This fall, the $21 million figure has been increased to about $28 million during initial rounds of reviews by the state's Interagency Committee on School Construction.

"I'm extremely pleased that we've garnered the support we have so far," Sines said. "It's very exciting that the state recognizes our needs."

Proposed school funding

State's proposed funding for Baltimore County school construction projects, as of Dec. 19:

Vincent Farm Elementary - $5.9 million

Deep Creek Middle School renovation - $3 million

Perry Hall Middle School renovation and roof replacement - $9.7 million

General John Stricker Middle School renovation - $5.9 million

Eastern Tech High School roof replacement - $1.7 million

Parkville Middle School roof replacement - $1 million

Maiden Choice School roof replacement - $532,000

Source: Baltimore County Public Schools

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