Arlotto's capital budget plan keeps county school projects on track

Superintendent says time is not right for Crofton high project

September 04, 2014|By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun

George Arlotto this week became the third Anne Arundel County superintendent in as many years submitting a capital budget proposal — but he said working within the school system for 10 years helped him hammer out the $163.4 million request.

"Not a lot of changes were made, based on what we've done in the past and where we're headed in the future," said Arlotto, who was the system's chief of staff before becoming superintendent in July.

Arlotto replaced Mamie Perkins, who served as an interim superintendent for a year while the school district sought a permanent replacement for seven-year Superintendent Kevin Maxwell.

Arlotto's capital budget proposal for fiscal year 2016, laying out plans for major construction projects within the school system, is less than the $192.1 million request Perkins submitted last year and Maxwell's $239.9 million request two years ago.

Anne Arundel schools Chief Operating Officer Alex Szachnowicz said the smaller amount points to the fact that several large projects have been completed or are winding down, and upcoming requests are in planning phases.

Arlotto's requests include $48 million toward replacing Severna Park High School, $14.6 toward revitalizing Benefield Elementary School and $15 million to replace Rolling Knolls Elementary School — a project that tops the school system's priorities list.

Arlotto recommended to the school board a capital budget that includes nearly $101 million in renovation projects.

The proposal also includes $11 million for additions to accommodate all-day prekindergarten and kindergarten.

He is requesting that $123.1 million of the funding come from the county, with the rest from the state.

Arlotto's budget calls for modernization funding for West Annapolis Elementary School and design funding for five elementary schools: Manor View, High Point, George Cromwell, Jessup and Arnold.

Those items are also part of the school system's 2006 Strategic Facilities Utilization Master Plan, which called for 35 projects to be completed within 10 years. Szachnowicz said 23 of the 35 projects have either been completed or are in progress.

Among the remaining 12 items is a $182 million Old Mill High School project, part of an overhaul of the Old Mill campus that also includes Old Mill South and North middle schools.

School officials say neither the composition nor the order of items on the master plan have changed — a fact that has drawn ire from some county residents, among them Crofton-area citizens who have long requested school officials build a high school in their area.

Their pleas have drawn the attention of some county government officials, but there's no such plan in Arlotto's capital budget.

The superintendent said he has spoken with County Council members and Crofton residents about the matter.

"When it's time to build a new high school, Crofton is the right area to do it, not only because of the location, but it is the only cluster where we have a split articulation pattern — where students that are in one middle school don't go to the same high school," Arlotto said.

"But we have needs in some of the other schools, particularly at Old Mill. The fact Old Mill is on the list is for a reason, and I intend to recommend it remain on the list where it is."

Last year, county officials allocated $500,000 for the school system to update the 2006 master plan. Szachnowicz said that work will begin soon.

"With the current study expiring in 2016 we're probably going to get the [utilization master plan] study work going in 2015 to have everything ready by 2016," he said.

The Anne Arundel school board will hold a public workshop on Arlotto's request at 6 p.m. Sept. 16. No public testimony will be taken at the workshop, but it will be at a public hearing before the board at 7 p.m. Sept. 17.

After the school board reviews and approves a plan, it goes to state officials. The county executive will receive the budget request in February, along with the school system's operating budget request.

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