Leggett proposes $41 million more for school construction -- Gazette.Net


Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett is recommending the county direct about $41.3 million more than he originally proposed toward school construction projects.

The extra funds would produce a total of more than $1.5 billion for Montgomery County Public Schools’ capital improvement program for fiscal years 2015 through 2020, compared to Leggett’s original proposal in January of about $1.1 billion.

Leggett’s recommendation to increase county funding for the school system follows unsuccessful efforts in the General Assembly to give Montgomery $20 million more a year in state funding for school construction projects.

School board President Philip Kauffman said Monday the extra money Leggett is recommending would help the school system “somewhat,” but still leaves a significant funding gap.

“There still will be significant delays to projects across the county,” he said.

Before Leggett released his recommendation, the County Council’s Education Committee approved Monday a plan aimed at addressing the roughly $230 million gap between the school system’s request for capital funds and Leggett’s original proposal.

Council President Craig L. Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown said the recommended funding — which come from school impact tax revenue — might alter that plan.

“We’re right now in feverish meetings to see what in fact this means for us,” Rice said Tuesday.

Under the plan the council committee approved, the school system would cut about $170 million over the six-year period through one-year delays to all projects — including additions, revitalization and expansion projects — that don’t have construction funds in fiscal 2015.

Larry Bowers, the county school system’s chief operating officer, said the plan wouldn’t delay any project that is either already under way or going to get under way in fiscal 2015.

“The belief is it’s the fairest approach because every project will be impacted by it,” Bowers said.

Revitalization and expansion projects at elementary schools were already delayed a year under the school board’s capital budget proposal. This plan would increase those delays by another year.

To help fill the rest of the funding gap, the council committee also approved cuts to proposed funds for the school system’s HVAC replacements and the removal of four elementary school addition projects from the six-year capital projects plan.

Bowers said school officials hope the extra funding will mean the school system won’t need to decrease HVAC replacement funds.

“That is a very high priority,” he said of the HVAC work.

Rice said it is possible that the reduction of HVAC funds “might not be as severe.”

“The reality is is that the larger scale of pushing everything back one year will still most likely continue for the majority of schools,” he said.

Kauffman said school system officials were told that efforts at the state-level to create the new funding method would likely succeed in the 2015 legislative session.

“There will be the ability, assuming that we do get those dollars next year, for these delays to be reversed,” he said.