Maryland county leaders, including Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., testified Wednesday in Annapolis in support of a bill that could add $1.8 billion to the state’s school construction funding over the next four years.
The plan by Gov. Larry Hogan would use revenue bonds funded by casino gaming revenues to pay for public school construction projects through a program run by the Maryland Stadium Authority.
Olszewski told the Maryland Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee that without the additional funding, school projects that Baltimore County parents expect could grind to a halt.
“Without your help and the legislature’s help, I can’t even commit to a kindergartner today that they’re going to have a high school replacement,” Olszewski said.
The legislation is modeled after Baltimore’s 21st Century School Buildings Program, which funded the opening of five newly renovated buildings last year. Mathew Palmer, Hogan’s deputy legislative officer, said the bill would meet about 90 percent of annual funding requests from school systems across the state.
Under the Schools for our Future program, the previous Baltimore County administration promised to update school facilities on a “very aggressive timeline” by forward-funding state dollars, Olszewski said. But when he took office, he said, he discovered “we don’t have the wherewithal to pay in advance and get it back.”
“We need not just a large infusion this year, but for several years, so we can sustain that progress that we are currently underway,” Olszewski said. “Otherwise we’re going to have to pull the plug on contracts and delay schools that, frankly, parents are expecting to be done.”
Those needs, Olszewski said, do not include a future high school capacity shortfall that will cost an additional $600 million to resolve, the consultant Sage Policy Group estimates.
Others who spoke in support of the bill included Barry Glassman, Harford County executive and president of the Maryland Association of Counties, and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.
Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.