Harford County’s share of the cost for school construction projects for next year will not increase, after a state panel agreed not to change the funding formula for now.

The Interagency Commission on School Construction was considering a proposal that would decrease how much the state would cover of a school construction project from 63 percent to 59 percent covered by the state, increasing the county’s cost to 41 percent of the cost of a project.

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The IAC voted unanimously on Thursday not to adopt that increase and to “hold harmless” counties set to see a decrease, which in addition to Harford were Queen Anne’s, Frederick and Carroll counties. The cost-shares are considered on a county-by-county basis.

Harford County is seeking funding for three projects from the state in the FY2021 budget —$1.59 million for the Hickory Elementary roof (total $2.22 million); $4.3 million for the Bel Air Middle roof (total $7.5 million); and $8.07 million for the Joppatowne renovation (total $21 million).

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 three capital project are expected to be presented at Monday’s meeting to the Harford County Board of Education for approval to be sent to the state by Oct. 4. The items had been scheduled for approval at the Sept. 9 meeting but a vote was delayed pending the IAC’s action.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman wrote to the IAC asking that members defer a vote.

Revising the formula could have cost the county an unanticipated $1.8 million, Glassman wrote.

“At a minimum, we would urge this group to delay any changes in this formula until a clearer picture is presented relative to the overall educational funding process for both the state and its counties,” Glassman wrote.

The IAC agreed last year not to increase Harford County’s percentage increase, he said.

“In fact, it was noted that this decision was in large part driven by the desire to do as much as possible to promote school construction in Maryland,” Glassman wrote. “We believe that was the correct decision then; we believe that is still the correct decision.”

In considering changing the cost share formula, IAC member and Maryland Secretary of Planning Robert McCord, a Harford resident and former Harford County Attorney, said the changes in percentage may be small, but have major impacts.

“They have to decide between textbooks, they have to decide between bricks and mortar, they have to decide between computers and police cars and everything else that has to be funded at the county level,” McCord said. “After 16 years in local government, you can’t always give everyone everything they want, but you have to get the basics right. Someone would have to go through the planning process to start stripping out things from their projects.”

Unless someone could give him a “really, really good reason,” McCord said he would continue to advocate for holding the county’s harmless.

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