Howard school projects lead capital budget priorities
By Lloyd Batzler
Mar 29, 2018 | 6:30 PM
A $165 million construction budget that calls for accelerating some school building and remodeling projects, including new security measures, is being proposed by Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman.
The capital improvement program budget recommends $63.7 million for school projects, in part to offset an expected $12.3 million decline in state construction funding.
The proposal, released Thursday afternoon, relies on issuing $97.4 million in general obligation bonds, an amount that exceeds a $75 million borrowing cap suggested by a county spending affordability advisory group.
While Kittleman wrote he supports “maintaining fiscal discipline to keep the county’s debt burden at a manageable level,” his letter to the County Council accompanying the budget said “we cannot ignore certain critical infrastructure needs that must be addressed immediately.”
The county’s school system is moving forward with planning a new high school in Jessup to help relieve crowding in nearby schools and the capital budget earmarks $6.7 million for planning and design work. By speeding up the county’s 13th high school, leaders believe they can avoid a controversial school district redistricting by the next decade.
With a new March 8 deadline to choose the site of the county’s next high school, the Board of Education continues to gather information about the safety and viability of the two choices, Troy Park in Elkridge and Mission Road in Jessup.
Earlier this week, in the wake of recent attacks at schools in Southern Maryland and Florida, the county and school system announced they would spend $1.1 million to make security upgrades at some schools, including exterior door locks and buzzer entry systems.
Kittleman, a Republican who is seeking re-election, has said he doesn’t plan to increase the county’s property tax rate.
Other education projects include $8.1 million to finish work at the 780-student Hanover Hills Elementary School that is opening in the fall, $4 million for improvements at Hammond High School in Columbia and $9.2 million to complete remodeling work at Howard Community College’s nursing building.
Under the plan, $6 million is targeted for resurfacing about 36 miles of county roads and $17 million is planned for stormwater and drainage projects.
The Gateway Innovation Center, a 900-acre business campus in Columbia that is a centerpiece of an economic development program championed by the county executive and business leaders, would get $3 million for design work and building renovations.
“While holding the line on taxes and by keeping our debt service affordable, we have proposed projects that will support our shared goals of a county that endorses a live, learn, work and play approach,” Kittleman wrote.