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Harford’s share of school construction projects could cost more with proposed changes to state formula

Harford County’s portion of the school construction projects next year could get more expensive if the state Interagency Commission on School Construction approves changes to its cost-share formula.

Proposed changes could increase the cost of two of the county’s three priority projects in the next budget year, Cornell Brown, assistant superintendent for operations for Harford County Public Schools, told members of the board of education at their meeting Monday night.

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Under the existing formula, the state pays 63 percent of a capital project, the county pays 37 percent. The school system found out late Monday afternoon that formula is being reconsidered to a 59-41 percent cost-share for fiscal years 2021 and 2022 in Harford County, Brown said.

The cost-shares are considered on a county-by-county basis.

The school board was scheduled to vote at Monday’s meeting on the school system’s top three priorities totaling $30.7 million — roof replacements at Hickory Elementary and Bel Air Middle and a limited renovation at Joppatowne High — to send to the state by Oct. 4, but delayed a vote until the next school board meeting pending a decision by the IAC on Thursday, he said.

“We don’t want to adopt a budget we would have to amend,” Brown said.

Projects to be funded locally will be presented to the board in December to be sent to the state in January.

The overall costs of the projects won’t be affected, only the state-county funding ratio.

The Hickory Elementary splits won’t change because it was approved for funding last year and the rates are locked in, said Missy Valentino, facilities planner of planning and construction for the school system.

According to the 63-37 percent formula, the state funding need is $1.59 million and the county need is $633,000 for the Hickory Elementary roof; $4.3 million from the state and $3.2 million locally for the Bel Air Middle roof, and $8.07 million from the state and $12.9 million from the county for the Joppatowne renovation.

The $21 million Joppatowne High project includes parking lot resurfacing and stadium upgrades — to bring it up to date with other high schools — that are not eligible for state funding.

The state share is a percentage of only the construction costs — it does not cover design, contingency, construction management and other aspects of the projects that contribute to the total cost.

The cost-share formula used to be adjusted every three years, but it was changed to every two last year. The state declined to change the rate last year when it could have, and is taking it up again this year.

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