Calling Severna Park High School "one of the highest-performing, worst facilities I've ever seen in this state," Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said this week the state will come up with money to help Anne Arundel County Public Schools replace the aging facility — but not the $25 million the county wants this year.
Franchot toured the 55-year-old high school with school officials and County Executive Laura Neuman on Monday, and said he came away convinced calls for a replacement are not unfounded.
Noting problems that included holes in the auditorium walls, loose electrical fixtures and a lack of thermostats in key areas, Franchot said he would discuss the project with his fellow members of the state's Board of Public Works — Gov. Martin O'Malley and state Treasurer Nancy Kopp — and "hopefully the state will put money into [the project] this spring."
Severna Park High School was built in 1959 and was renovated in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2010-2011, the school was named a National Ribbon School of Excellence.
The replacement school, to be built on the same Robinson Road campus as the existing facility, will cost $134 million and is slated to open in August or December 2016. Alex Szachnowicz, chief operating officer for Anne Arundel schools, said the system has about $26 million in its own coffers for the project but is counting on $25 million from the state and $24.7 million from the county to get construction under way in May.
The project had been left out of O'Malley's proposed statewide budget. Overall, the state allocated $18.8 million toward Anne Arundel school projects — but none of that for Severna Park.
County officials made another plea for funding to the state Board of Public Works earlier this month, and Neuman invited Franchot to tour the school site to survey its needs.
Neuman has said the county receives less state funding for school construction on a per-pupil basis than Howard County and Baltimore City schools, despite having the state's third-highest enrollment over five years. She said the county government has funded more than 77 percent of school construction over the past 10 years, and that 59 percent of Arundel's capital spending is dedicated to schools.
Media outlets were not invited on Monday's tour, but afterward Franchot called the facility inadequate, and said it "needs to be replaced as quickly as possible." He said the state won't be able to fund the full $25 million requested, but was confident some additional money will come for the project.
Asked if the county would make up for any state shortfall, Neuman said, "The county is going to forward fund the project based on the commitment from the state. They made it clear that they are committed to the project, so we anticipate some funding this year, then we will work the subsequent years. But I do believe the full commitment will be there. …
"This is a big funding request. We're at the point where we have to build a new school."