After a Thursday vote by the Interagency Commission on School Construction, Carroll County is off the chopping block for a proposal that could have cut a significant percentage of the state’s share of school construction funding.

The IAC’s duties include reviewing the formula that determines the balance of school construction costs between the state and the local school district. This is called the state cost share percentage. The cost-shares are considered on a county-by-county basis.

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In a plan the IAC reviewed Thursday, Carroll County Public Schools faced the possibility of seeing the state’s share of construction costs drop from 59% to 53% over the next two financial years, adding to the cost county government would bear as CCPS undertakes two major construction projects.

But the body voted to hold harmless for Carroll and the four other counties facing potential cuts to their state cost share percentage. This will be effective through financial year 2022, when the formula will be up for another review.

During the IAC’s considerations, State Superintendent Karen Salmon said, “We have consistently had the mindset that we do not want counties to be getting less money than they had gotten before.” She proposed that the body continue to hold the counties harmless as they had done since 2016 when reviewing the cost share formulas.

Other IAC members agreed, noting that the school districts eloquently testified to how a seemingly small percentage has a real and visible impact on school budgets.

Jon O’Neal, chief operating officer of Carroll County Public Schools; Ray Prokop, director of Facilities Management; and Bill Caine, facilities planner, testified on behalf of the Carroll County Board of Education and Superintendent Steve Lockard.

The testimony began, “As the local board who would lose the largest percentage of state participation, we are here to ask that you reject or defer the proposal for reasons we will outline. After a very difficult decade fiscally in CCPS, including the closure of three schools, we are finally on the verge of submitting a new [Capital Improvement Program] that includes two modernizations, our Career and Technology Center, and a replacement for Westminster East Middle School. These projects were developed after years of extensive local discussion and fiscal planning.”

“The timing of this proposal is detrimental to our local process as we are seeking state participation for our Career and Technology Center in the next fiscal year. The project has been planned and developed using the state worksheets and current cost share percentage, and has already been publicly submitted to our local board.”

One concern with the proposed drop was that it would have dropped the cost share too much too quickly. Maryland code required a cost share percentage point drop of more than 5% to be phased in over three financial years. The proposal up for review Thursday would have dropped Carroll down 6% over two financial years between 2020 and 2022.

CCPS also expressed that they should have been given the figure before planning their construction budgeting requests that they will submit to the state.

“Learning the cost share change after a project is developed and submitted for action creates unnecessary concern and confusion,” O’Neal said during the testimony.

Staff presented a proposal for the CCPS Capital Improvement Program to the Board of Education on Wednesday. It remains out for public comment until their meeting in October.

A public hearing on the proposed FY21 Capital Budget and the FY22-FY26 CIP budget request will be held Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Board of Education offices.

The document is posted at www.carrollk12.org under CCPS News and Notices. Comments and suggestions may be submitted online at www.carrollk12.org/boe/Pages/Feedback.aspx or by U.S. mail to the Superintendent’s Office, Carroll County Public Schools, 125 North Court Street, Westminster, MD 21157.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman also submitted written testimony. Harford County stood to see a 4% drop over the next two financial years.

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