The state wants to look at ways to find money for public school construction.

Gov. Martin O'Malley's executive order directs the Interagency Committee on School Construction to work with the state departments of Budget and Management and Legislative Services on a study on school construction. The IAC administers the funding for public and private schools.

Under the order, the IAC must deliver a report including recommendations on "creative means, financing or otherwise," to increase funding for school construction.

Among the order's requirements, the IAC must make recommendations on the use of lease payments or other alternative financing methods to hike school construction funds.

School construction projects are typically funded using a combination of state and local funds.

In some counties, including Anne Arundel, tight budgets and burgeoning enrollments in recent years have increased frustration.

The county's school construction backlog is about $1 billion. Parents in parts of the county are seeking funding for new high schools. Lawmakers fought throughout the General Assembly's 90-day session to get funding the county requested for the new Severna Park High School.

Earlier this year, Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman told a delegation of the county's state lawmakers that the county wasn't getting its "fair share" of cash to build schools.

Several alternative funding methods have been floated since then.

The Anne Arundel County Council on Monday defeated a measure that would have allowed the county to create a reserve fund to build a $130 million school, likely in Crofton.

Another proposal introduced in a bill this year by Del. Cathy Vitale, R-Severna Park, would have excluded lease payments made by local school districts from the state "maintenance of effort" law.

Vitale said in January she had heard that at least one private company was interested in building a new high school in Anne Arundel County and leasing it back to the school system, transferring the property to the system at the end of the lease.

But the maintenance of effort law requires local governments, if they are to qualify for increased state aid for education, to spend as much per pupil each year as they did the year before.

Because lease payments are included in maintenance-of-effort calculations, county assistance in paying for a leasing deal wouldn't be as feasible, Vitale said. That would mean an increase in the county's maintenance-of-effort level, prompting cuts to county schools staff or school supplies.

Vitale said her bill would remove that hurdle, and offer a way to pay for Anne Arundel County Public Schools to a new high school.

Vitale's legislation, House Bill 349, was later changed to a bill that in some ways mirrors O'Malley's executive order.

The final version of the bill would have ordered the Department of Legislative Services to study alternative financing methods and report back by Dec. 15, 2014.

The bill passed the House unanimously on March 17, but never made it to a Senate vote.

O'Malley's executive order gives the IAC until Sept. 1, 2015 to deliver a report.

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