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News Opinion Readers Respond

City's school construction plan could work elsewhere [Letter]

Your recent editorial pooh-poohing expanding to other counties the innovative school construction model the legislature approved for Baltimore City missed the mark by a wide margin ("School construction apples and oranges," Jan. 14).

I didn't vote for the Baltimore plan because the city is a special case (although, in some other important ways, it is). I voted for it because the plan made fiscal, educational and economic sense for taxpayers and for kids.

The state school construction program, a progressive innovation in the 1970s when Governor Marvin Mandel and the legislature created it, needs updating. In particular, by financing the state share of 30-, 40-, and 50-year investments in school buildings with 15-year bonds, the program violates a cardinal rule of capital finance — match repayment to the useful life of the project. The mathematically predictable result of the current system is under-investment in timely renovation and capacity expansion. Teachers and students across the state live with the results — leaking roofs, unreliable heating and cooling and temporary buildings.

By converting the state's funding share from an annual "begathon" for 15-year bond money into a 30-year revenue stream against which the city can borrow, the Baltimore plan allows investment to catch up with need. It makes sense for Baltimore, and it makes sense for other jurisdictions.

In modernizing school construction finance, Baltimore City is the leader, but it's not a special case.

Sen. Jim Rosapepe, College Park

The writer, a Democrat, represents District 21 in Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties.

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