Major Funding Measure For Schools Moves Forward
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A major funding plan to build 15 new schools and renovate up to 40 others in Baltimore by enabling the city to issue about $1 billion in bonds moved forward in the Maryland House of Delegates on Thursday.
The Democratic-controlled House is set to vote Friday on the huge financial plan aimed at rebuilding some of the state’s oldest schools, where some students go without heat in winter and use bathrooms that don’t have flushing toilets.
The bonds would be made possible by funding from the state, the city and the city school system. They would contribute $20 million a year each for 30 years. The state money would come from the lottery beginning in fiscal year 2015. The city money would come from a bottle tax and gambling revenue, as well as retiree health savings.
Democrats rejected some proposed changes by Republicans.
For example, Delegate Susan Krebs, R-Carroll, sought to require the city to adhere to the same school utilization standards as other school systems in the state under the massive funding plan. Krebs noted that the city’s school system has a high cost on a per-student basis, and she said that’s largely because there is a lot of excess capacity in existing schools without enough political will to close or consolidate them.
“The purpose of this is to ensure that we’re going to go forward with the plan of the closures, the consolidations, and that we’re not just going to build new capacity and then not have the political will for the closures,” Krebs said.
But Delegate John Bohanan, D-St. Mary’s, said Baltimore already has closed 25 schools, with another 26 committed to being shuttered in the next five years. Bohanan also noted that the state has contributed an average of $28 million annually to the school system since 1998, more than the plan currently calls for since the city and the school system will pay two-thirds.
“They’re going to build up to 15 new schools, not to add capacity — to replace old, decrepit schools that should have been replaced many years ago,” Bohanan said.
The Maryland Stadium Authority would oversee the financing under the measure. The bill requires a four-way memorandum of understanding between the stadium authority, the city, the school system and the Interagency Committee on School Construction. The stadium authority would not be able to issue bonds until the memorandum of understanding is approved by the Board of Public Works, which includes the governor, the comptroller and the treasurer. Each bond issuance also would have to be approved by the board.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)