Gov. Hogan proposes additional $23M for Baltimore schools; House budget chair says Assembly has its own plan

Gov. Larry Hogan said Sunday he's proposing an additional $23.7 million for Baltimore schools, extra funding he said he'll include in a supplemental budget Monday.

The money would be contingent upon the General Assembly passing "accountability legislation" for city schools that would include an audit of the school system's finances, Hogan's office said.

City and state officials have been negotiating for weeks about extra aid for city schools, which are facing a $130 million shortfall for next year.

While Mayor Catherine Pugh and others had asked the governor to help, the chief budget negotiator for the House of Delegates said Sunday night the legislature's budget leaders have come up with a different plan — and suggested the governor's new proposal could be irrelevant.

"Although it's great that the governor is finally on board, we've already taken care of the schools in the budget," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Maggie McIntosh said. "It's not necessary."

State lawmakers, she said, have included plans in their budget legislation to reduce mandatory pension payments for Baltimore by about $24 million — effectively freeing up that much money to help close the school system's budget gap.

McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat, said the House and Senate plan to finalize their version of the state's budget by early afternoon Monday, a time line that would likely preclude Hogan's plan from being considered by the Assembly.

But Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, chairman of the Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee, said lawmakers could consider the governor's proposal, or they might rely on the budget maneuvers they've already worked out.

"There is a Plan B out there in case he didn't do it," Kasemeyer said.

State lawmakers also have been working to provide additional funding for other counties where enrollment is declining. Legislation already approved by the House of Delegates would guarantee 11 school districts extra money for each of the next three years.

Hogan said his supplemental budget proposal would include additional money not just for Baltimore but for 10 other districts: Carroll County ($1.6 million), Allegany County ($793,000), Garrett County ($456,000), Somerset County ($455,000), Harford County ($356,000), Calvert County ($240,000), Kent County ($215,000), Cecil County ($190,000), Talbot County ($133,000) and Queen Anne's County ($22,000).

In a statement, Hogan said that "more money isn't the only answer" for the city school system.

"We are proud that this funding is part of an agreement with Baltimore City leadership to bring greater transparency and accountability to city school finances," Hogan said in the statement.

The governor's announcement mentioned an audit that would be done by an independent accountant in consultation with the state's Department of Budget and Management.

A spokesman for Pugh declined to comment Sunday night. She has said the city government also will provide more aid to the school system, in part by cutting police spending.

Pugh is expected to unveil her first budget as mayor this week. She has suggested cutting $5.5 million from the Police Department to send to the school system instead. She also has suggested tapping the city's rainy day fund and unused snow removal money to help close the school system's shortfall.

The $130 million shortfall represents about 10 percent of the Baltimore school system's $1.3 billion budget. School system officials have cited several reasons for the budget shortfall, including a loss of state aid due to declining student enrollment and higher city property values.

The supplemental budget to be released Monday would be Hogan's second of the current General Assembly session, which runs through April 10. On Friday, he issued a supplemental budget with more money for heroin treatment, higher education and economic development programs. It also included $2 million for the Baltimore Police Department to help pay for the cost of complying with a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Baltimore Sun reporter Carrie Wells contributed to this article.

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New money

Gov. Larry Hogan says his second supplemental budget will propose $28.2 million in additional funding for schools in 11 districts, including these in the Baltimore area:

Baltimore City: $23.7 million

Carroll County: $1.6 million

Harford County: $356,000

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