- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Charles County commissioners approved Tuesday more than 1,000 school allocations for the second half of 2013, though the ultimate number granted will almost certainly be many fewer.
The commissioners annually approve two batches of school allocations, one for each half of the year. Earlier this year, county staff recommended 2,167 total allocations for 2013.
The allocations are determined based on the number of open seats at county schools, and then awarded to developers seeking to build homes. One allocation is needed for each house built.
Under the formula, which incorporates each school’s open seats and the county’s ratio of homes to students, every two homes in the county produce roughly one student.
Many of the approved allocations are effectively worthless — for a development to receive allocations, there must be open seats at the elementary, middle and high school it would feed into. The bulk of the approved allocations are negated because of overcrowding at schools in the same zone.
For instance, though the same number of allocations was approved for the first half of 2013, 63 were offered — to three projects — and 48 of those were accepted by the developers. Another nine bulk allocations were awarded between January and July to individual lots or minor subdivisions of five lots or less.
Three of the county’s high schools are overcrowded, while three of its nine middle schools and 12 of its 21 elementary schools are over capacity, according to county data.
No allocations have been assigned to the new St. Charles High School in Waldorf because it has yet to open.
Charles County Board of Education member Jennifer S. Abell asked whether the formula takes outstanding allocations into account, but the allocations’ expiration dates “are intended to be a safeguard for that,” said Jason Groth, chief of resource and infrastructure management at the Department of Planning and Growth Management.
Commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly (D), who entered the lone vote against the allocations, said that safeguard hasn’t been there in recent years given the county’s policy of granting extensions to allocations in light of a weak economy.
“You want to do the right thing by giving business people, developers a chance to move through this tough time,” Kelly said. “The flip side of that is they’re in the queue” and could produce students in the future.
Groth said that a slow economy also acts as a restraint on development, but Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) pointed out that agreements between the county and developers have begun to pick up recently.
“That’s where someone’s writing a check to the county to buy the school allocations, and we’ve done several of those over the last year, which is indicative of perhaps the economy has really started to turn around in the housing industry, which we’re obviously seeing,” he said. “All of these in the pipeline, and we want the economy to get better, but are we prepared for it?”