School funding fix won’t reduce Montgomery allocation -- Gazette.Net


This story was updated Jan. 22, 2013.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s plan to boost state education aid has met with approval from Montgomery County lawmakers, and the increased aid to counties like Prince George’s won’t come at the expense of wealthier jurisdictions, according to the administration.

“It's been a controversial issue between Prince George’s and Montgomery,” said Del. Sheila E. Hixson (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring. “[But] they came up with a compromise, and we’ve all accepted it.”

In his proposed fiscal 2014 budget, O’Malley (D) included a change to the formula used to calculate a portion of state education funding to local jurisdictions.

That portion relies on an estimate of each jurisdiction’s net taxable income — effectively a snapshot of overall wealth taken every Sept. 1 based on data from federal tax returns. Education aid is given based on that picture, with less-affluent counties receiving more funding.

Because many wealthier residents file their returns in mid-October, after the snapshot is taken, the current system results in a disproportionately high education-aid allocation to more-affluent areas and an underpayment to less-affluent ones, officials say.

Under the proposed new system, two calculations will be made, and whichever results in more aid for a county will be used, said Stacy A. Mayer, the governor’s chief legislative officer. The wealthier counties will be held harmless, Mayer said.

O’Malley’s proposed spending plan begins a five-year phase-in to correct the imbalance, resulting in an additional $8.3 million for local education aid in fiscal 2014.

When fully implemented, the new formula — with one calculation made before federal late-filing deadline, the other after — is expected to cost the state an additional $40 million to be spread among 18 to 20 local school boards, according to the Department of Legislative Services.

Some Prince George’s lawmakers have expressed disappointment with the phase-in, but County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) spoke approvingly of the plan, which the county could work with, he said.

“Everybody wants everything (sooner), and we’re no different,” Baker said. “But we’re pleased the governor kept his commitment and is going to be working with us on this.”