Candidates discuss funding Carroll County Public Schools

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Education funding is a key issue to many Carroll County voters. Recently, however, state funding has started to decline and the state has shifted some of the costs of school system employees' pensions from the state to the county.

School board members and administrators have raised concerns about the diminishing funding from the state and county, while teachers have not received regular pay increases for years.

Five Republicans are running for House of Delegates in District 4, and voters can select three candidates in the June 24 primary to move on to the November general election. One Democrat is running unopposed.

Five are vying to become a District 9A delegate with two remaining on the November ballot. The two Democrats will automatically move on to the general election.

Two Republicans are running for the state Senate District 4 seat. One will move on to the general election, and face the one Democrat running for the seat. One Republican is running unopposed for state Senate in District 9 and will face one of the two Democrats vying for the spot in the November election.

We asked the candidates: Many Carroll County parents are concerned about education funding. Because of the wealth of county residents and of declining school enrollment, the school system lost more than $3.1 million in state funding in Fiscal Year 2015. Pension costs have also shifted from the state to the county in recent years, much to the ire of county officials. What is your view of this situation, and do you have a plan to increase state aid for Carroll County Public Schools? If so, could you explain?

House of Delegates District 4 Republicans

Kathy Afzali: First, I will be advocating for restored/increased funding for Carroll County schools and set that as a priority. Also, the pension costs were shifted because of a push by Senator Brinkley and others to shift the cost to the county. Now we are suffering the consequences. Again, I am hoping that Hough is victorious over Brinkley and we can put an end to bad policies that harm Carroll County. The fiscal health of the county begins with healthy businesses and schools. Healthy businesses bring wealth and better formulas for county schools. My business ranking in Frederick County is #1 and I intend to keep that ranking in my next term.

Barrie Ciliberti: Did not respond to multiple calls and emails.

Wendi Peters: I support revisiting the formula used to allocate state education funds. As Delegate, I will advocate for a sufficient allocation of state education funds, which are your tax dollars, to be returned to Carroll County. I will also work to ensure that state funding commitments to Carroll County are fully funded. Regarding the shift in pension costs, I support honoring existing commitments to teachers and education employees. Moving forward, we must find viable solutions for state and local governments to create sustainable systems for retirement benefits.

Kelly Schulz: Carroll County parents should be concerned about education funding. Education should be the number one priority of the state. Maryland voters approved a measure in 2012 that allowed casinos to be built. The messaging from the proponents was that the money would go to education. In fact, it does, but it is not additional funding. It is simply a different funding source to replace the revenue streams previously dedicated to education funding. Parents and educators need to address this with the leadership in Annapolis. I am willing to be a part of that conversation. Shifting the cost to counties is a way of shifting costs from the state, but it still affects every taxpayer. Higher costs in the county could result in a tax increase at the county level. I was opposed to the shift when it passed the general assembly due to yet another unfunded mandate placed on our local jurisdictions.

David Vogt III: It is absolutely vital that we, as a state, invest in our future leaders and citizens. To me, providing adequate resources for education is one of the most important responsibilities that state governments have. As a Delegate, I would make it a point to listen to the needs of our local schools, teachers and administrators, and I would fight to see that those needs are met. One effective way to provide enough funding for all of Maryland's public schools would be through reworking the budget, cutting out unnecessary spending and waste and prioritizing public education. There are many areas where our state government is spending entirely too much money; education will never be one of those areas.


House of Delegates District 4 Democrat

Gene Stanton: The most important function of our state government is to help fund our schools, infrastructure and highways. I strongly believe that the state does need to increase its funding for all of Maryland's school districts. As one of your state delegates from District 4, I would fight to make sure we pass legislation that requires all very large companies that do business in Maryland to pay their fair share of taxes. Right now, our tax burden falls too heavily on small and midsize businesses. A number of large corporations are avoiding paying taxes by shifting funds out of state. The additional funds would be earmarked for schools, infrastructure and highways only. In addition, we need to look at legislation that would revise the funding formula to provide fairer school funding by the state to districts with flat or declining enrollments. Smaller, rural school systems should not be penalized by the state simply because they are small.

Senate District 4 Republicans

David Brinkley: Last year I secured a floor amendment which temporarily increased funding to CCPS. The Senate adopted my amendment unanimously. The House removed funding because the Carroll County House members refused to support the budget. As a member of the conference committee, I was able to have restored 25 percent of the funding, which the Governor then withheld for the same reason. This year, Sen. Joe Getty was able to secure funding and protective language; this was also removed by the House leadership because the House delegation refused to support the budget. If re-elected, I will continue to fight for Carroll County tax dollars to be returned to Carroll County.

Michael Hough: Government spending has exploded under Martin O'Malley, with the budget increasing by $10 billion. Unfortunately, much of this money is going to large urban jurisdictions like Baltimore City and Prince George's County. Western Maryland needs leaders who will stand up for our citizens and not just go-along-to get-along with the liberal Democrat majority in Annapolis. We cannot continue to have the citizens of Frederick and Carroll County serve as ATM machines for the liberal jurisdictions of the state.


Senate District 4 Democrat

Dan Rupli: I have always been a fierce advocate for good education, and while my district only includes a small portion of Carroll County, I would fight like a tiger to get the $3.1 million restored. The shift of pension responsibility from state to county responsibility works a special hardship on all of our counties. That needs to be reversed, and I will work hard to accomplish that. We need to quit treating education as a cost and regard it instead as an investment in the future. Carroll County graduates will be competing with graduates from Singapore, Korea, Japan, Russia, and India for jobs in a challenging world market. We must prepare them for success in this highly competitive atmosphere. That is why I am so devoted to adopting the Tennessee plan, which is a direct investment in the future.

House of Delegates District 9A Republicans

Christopher Bouchat: Expand our commercial tax base, since it does not increase children in the school system they will not increase educational expenditures. I want less from the state and more autonomy for Carroll County citizens. Charter government is part of the solution. We need to stop groveling like desperate little Republicans at the feet of Democrat General Assembly leaders for financial crumbs they give us. The present system is a pathetic embarrassment that needs revolutionary change. No pitch forks and muskets, just a political science angle with leadership that is out of the box. I have it.

Trent Kittleman: While I do not discount the importance of having a well-funded school system, I take issue with the idea that getting more money out of the state should be our primary focus. Since the Thornton bill was enacted, the state has given counties more and more funds. What has happened, however, is that as the state funding increased, so has state control. Decision-making control of the school system should be at the level closest to the people. That dynamic has gradually been changing over the years, with the federal government now attempting to enforce a one-size-fits-all program. I am hopeful that Carroll County can find a way to become less reliant on state aid — and to regain control of how our children are taught.

Kyle Lorton: In order to better answer the question, the causes of enrollment declines and a decline of wealth in the county needs to be understood. I suspect the state is taxing citizens out of the state. Not only do I constantly hear when door knocking that residents are leaving, it's clear in the statistics. Maryland has lost 31,000 residents since 2007. The best way to recoup the money, and attract residents is to grow the economy and create jobs. In terms of pension costs, I oppose shifting those burdens on to the counties. This will only create a greater divide in Maryland between wealthy counties and cities and counties that need more help.

Warren Miller: I would work with other legislators to see how to accommodate the needs of Carroll County schools, but first and foremost this is an issue for delegation members of the appropriations committees in the House and Senate.

Frank Mirabile: Focusing on sending less tax revenue to Annapolis where it gets allocated by the Democratic majority to their districts or their special interest groups is a priority. Keeping more of Carroll County's tax revenues local gives greater flexibility to address budget needs without having to capitulate to state politics. The shifting of public pensions costs can be the right step to decouple state control. I believe it will benefit each county to manage their own retirement plans to the benefit of their employees instead of Annapolis playing politics with our public sector retirees. Each county faced with this new cost obligation should have their state tax burdens reduced by the same. Terminate the maintenance of effort mandate. Financial resources are limited and should be managed locally based on actual needs and priorities. The maintenance of effort mandate limits the flexibility necessary to manage local resources effectively.

Senate District 9 Republican

Gail Bates: First, I voted against the transfer of pension cost to local governments as I believe it unfairly burdened them for the sole purpose of relieving pressure on the state budget. Second, I supported the measure to give relief to jurisdictions with declining enrollment. The legislature has done this in the past for Baltimore City, and in fairness should do the same with other jurisdictions.

Senate District 9 Democrats

Ryan Frederic: Education is my top priority. The investments we make in our children at the state and county levels are the most important dollars we spend. Shifting pension liabilities from the state to the county has put tremendous pressure on county budgets and disrupted planning. As a member of the state legislature I will vote to make sure we fully fund state aid to our 24 local jurisdictions. I understand the financial pressure that our government faces at all levels, but education is not the first place we should be looking for cuts.

Daniel Medinger: The state of Maryland has a legal responsibility to provide a quality education for all students. I am pleased that the Carroll County Teacher Association has endorsed me for state Senate because they know that I am going to Annapolis to make sure that our school system has the resources and rewards necessary to be successful.

House of Delegates District 9A Democrats

Walter Carson: Quality educational programs are essential to Carroll County's future; and to the future of our children. If the state can support education in Baltimore through the Thornton plan, in similar fashion, it must be counted on to help other educational programs when they face hard times. Shifting pension costs to the county was wrong, and the decision should be reviewed. Of course the key to these problems is money. What programs do we cut to make funds available? I look forward to the citizens of Carroll County to help me find ways of replacing the $3.1 million in state funding and how to fund the pension costs without raising taxes.

James Morrow: I am proud to have the endorsement of the Maryland State Education Association and its Carroll County teachers affiliate. Working with, and not against, teachers we need to look for additional revenue streams. We will have to fight for our share of the state educational funding formula, but one thing is certain, continuing to elect a delegation that is consistently opposed to working with Maryland's elected leaders will not win any state support for our schools and other needs. Cutting wages and pensions for teachers is not a formula to improve education. There may be efficiencies that can be found from vendors or reductions in contracts, we must stop being fearful of looking at revenue streams such as indexing fees to inflation.