Montgomery council concerned about school construction, teacher pensions -- Gazette.Net


Finding money to build new schools and renovate older ones, as well as pay for teacher pensions, are top priorities for the Montgomery County Council for the state’s upcoming legislative session.

Montgomery County Public Schools get about 3,000 more students each year, straining the county’s ability to keep up with school construction and renovation, Council Chairwoman Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring said Tuesday.

“We just don’t have the resources,” she said.

Since fiscal 2008, the county’s public schools have averaged an increase of about 2,500 students a year, with enrollment up by more than 2,800 students for the current school year, county school spokesman Dana Tofig said in an email Tuesday.

The county would need about $500 million from the state throughout five or six years to fully address expansions, modernizations and improvement to infrastructure such as heating and air conditioning-units, Navarro said.

Navarro raised the issue during a meeting with officials from the Maryland Association of Counties on Tuesday.

The association advocates on behalf of the state’s counties on a variety of legislative and other issues.

Councilman Phil Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg also raised the issue of the burden placed on the county by the state’s decision to have counties pick up a share of teacher pensions.

The shift will cost Montgomery County $60 million a year by 2017, without any authority to control them, Andrews told MACo President Richard M. Pollitt Jr. and Executive Director Michael Sanderson.

Pollitt, Wicomico County’s executive, agreed that giving counties a bill for something they have no control over is unfair.

The next legislative session, which starts in January, should be a “building year” to help generate the case in Annapolis for giving counties more control over pension costs, Andrews said.

He said after the meeting that he understands that the issue will not be resolved in the coming session, and in fact could take years to clear up.

Andrews said the coming election year is a good opportunity to get the state’s gubernatorial and other candidates on the record on the issue.

“We have to find a way to change that,” Andrews said.