Anne Arundel to Consider Creation of Special Fund for School Construction

March 13, 2014

As reported by The Capital, Anne Arundel Council Member Jamie Benoit plans to introduce legislation to create a special fund using income tax revenue to fund school construction projects in the county. The fund would first be used to build a 13th high school and then go towards other school maintenance and construction projects.

From the article:

The legislation would dedicate 2.5 percent of income tax revenue for the fund. County Auditor Teresa Sutherland estimates that would bring in $10 million a year. The money would be used to leverage the issuing of bonds.

Revenue placed in the fund would come from an increase in the county’s local income tax.

Benoit said that during council budget deliberations in May he will introduce separate legislation raising the county’s piggyback income tax from 2.56 percent to 2.58 or 2.59. This would mean about $10 or $15 a year more on a taxable annual income of $50,000.

Although not yet introduced, the proposal is already being met with mixed views.

Councilman Jerry Walker, R-Crofton, who has publicly supported building a high school in Crofton, said he would likely vote in favor of Benoit’s bill but is opposed to raising taxes. Walker said an improving economy will provide an increase in revenue.

“It would make sense to have a dedicated fund set aside for infrastructure projects,” Walker said. “I don’t see why I wouldn’t support it.”

Councilman Derek Fink, R-Pasadena, said while building a 13th high school would mean smaller classes sizes, which he supports, he “would never support any type of tax increase to be able to fund that.”

Councilman Daryl Jones, D-Severn, said he has concerns about whether the bill would affect maintenance of effort — the state rule that per-pupil spending cannot be reduced — and how operating costs are funded. He said he wouldn’t vote for the bill unless those concerns are addressed.


St. Mary’s County Schools Return Unspent Construction Funds to Government

February 20, 2014

St. Mary’s County school board decided earlier this week to return $187,592 of unspent school construction funds back to county government.

The money will be transferred to St. Mary’s County account for capital improvement projects and be used for other county construction projects in the future.

From the SoMdNews.com article,

Kim Howe, director of capital planning and green schools, said her department recently looked at 17 active school construction project accounts.

“Looking at the projects, we identified $187,592 in project funds that were in closeout or nearing closeout that could be reverted back to the county,” Howe said.

Board member Cathy Allen said she was glad to see the school construction department is “diligent and cautious with the use of funds.”

Howe said the ups and downs of the economy during the last several years have also played a role in final project costs, especially for large projects that take multiple years to design and complete.

Visit SoMdNews.com to read the full article.


Three Counties Work Together for School Construction Funding

January 14, 2014

The County Executives from Prince George’s, Montgomery and Baltimore Counties stood together in unity to announce that they will work together to develop legislation requesting additional funding for school modernization and construction, as reported by Montgomery County’s press office.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz indicated that this funding is essential to meet the growing need for more classrooms and better facilities in their counties.   The executives also indicated that improving the teaching and learning environment in their jurisdictions would be a good first step to ensure that Maryland remains the number one state in education.  The three executives were joined by members of their legislative delegations, school boards, county councils and superintendents for this important announcement.

For more information, see the press release from Montgomery County and our post on Conduit Street, Montgomery County Announces School Construction Funding Initiative.

The House Appropriations Committee is hearing a report on school construction funding for Baltimore City, which was approved by the General Assembly last year, in HB860. HB860 authorized the Board of Public Works to issue bonds up to $1.1 billion for Baltimore City Public School facilities. To watch today’s hearing in Appropriations, visit the General Assembly’s webpage.  For more information, see our previous post, House Supports Baltimore City School Funding.


Montgomery County Announces School Construction Funding Initiative

October 31, 2013

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett today joined County, school and State officials in urging the Governor and the Maryland General Assembly to support legislation that would benefit Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) similar to a bill passed last year for the Baltimore City Public Schools, as reported by the County’s Press Office.

The legislation would jumpstart a public school building program to increase capacity and modernize facilities in response to MCPS’ double-digit enrollment surge that is expected to continue unabated into the future, the News Release describes.

From 2000-2012, MCPS grew by 14,599 students — more than the growth of Anne Arundel, Howard, Frederick and Baltimore counties COMBINED over the same period. The County’s unprecedented increase in enrollment is the highest in the State and nearly half of MCPS schools are projected to have seat deficits by the 2018-2019 school year.

County Executive Isiah Leggett, who serves on MACo’s Board of Directors, pointed to Maryland’s national leadership in education and the importance of an educated workforce to the Montgomery County economy.

“We are known nationally for our school system, which contributes directly to our ability to attract and retain an educated workforce, business and industry,” said Leggett. “To maintain the County’s role as a key economic engine of the State of Maryland, we cannot allow our double-digit school enrollment increases – the highest in the State — to jeopardize our attractiveness as a place to work and live. That is why I am calling upon the Governor and the Maryland General Assembly to help us deal with our enrollment crisis. Despite the County’s efforts to fund the capital needs of MCPS over the past seven years – even under the shadow and the challenges of the Great Recession — we have not been able to meet capacity and modernization needs. The longer MCPS is behind in providing adequate school capacity, the more difficult and expensive it will be to catch up.”

For more information, see this press release from Montgomery County, and this coverage from the Washington Post.


Prevailing Wage Task Force to Examine School Construction Projects

September 13, 2013

The General Assembly recently appointed a task force to study the applicability of the Maryland Prevailing Wage Law.  While the main focus of the task force is school construction projects, it will also look at Maryland prevailing wage laws compared to other states and the effects of prevailing wage laws on construction costs, community well-being, worker wages, income tax revenue, and state and local budgets.

The task force, appointed pursuant to HB 1098 (Ch. 402, Acts of 2013), has 13 members and is co-chaired by two members of the Maryland Senate, Senators Mac Middleton and Allan Kittleman, and two members of the Maryland House of Delegates, Delegates John Olszewski and Steve Schuh. Other members include representatives from the Public School Construction Program, the AFL-CIO, Washington DC Building and Construction Trades Council, Associated Builders and Contractors, the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, and the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo).  MACo’s representative is Diane George, Finance and Procurement Director, Frederick County.

During the first meeting, task force members received an overview of the prevailing wage unit of the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation; and discussed data to be collected and examined on school construction projects across the state.  To ensure the data being examined is comparable, the task force has agreed to focus only on new school construction projects that have been completed over the past three years.  Specifics issues being examined include:

1) examine the current Prevailing Wage Law and how it applies to school construction projects, including:

(i)the current process as it relates to the Interagency Committee on School Construction procedures;

(ii)the determination of whether a project is bid as a prevailingwage or nonprevailing wage project;

(iii)how the current prevailing wage thresholds apply and affect bids for school construction projects; and

(iv)whether there are differences in the application of the Prevailing Wage Law based on project size and cost;

(2)analyze and examine school construction contracts bid as prevailing wage and nonprevailing wage contracts to determine the effect the following requirements may have on contract costs, including:

(i)overhead costs associated with complying with the Prevailing Wage Law;

(ii)other related contractor overhead costs that may apply;

(iii)fringe benefits provided to workers;

(iv)licensing requirements;

(v)reporting requirements; and

(vi)union requirements that may affect staffing levels;

(3)analyze and examine prevailing wage and nonprevailing wage construction projects through the duration of the project to determine if project quality varies by contract type, accounting for the following:

(i)local school system-driven modifications;

(ii)unforeseen condition modifications; and

(iii)defective workmanship.

The Task Force is required by law to report its findings and recommendations by December 31, 2013.

As introduced, HB 1098 would have lowered the State funding threshold for which prevailing wage would apply to a local public work project from 50 to 25%.As amended by the House, HB 1098 would have require prevailing wage rates to be paid for a local project receiving any amount of State funds. MACo opposed the bill in this posture stating that this “one size fits all” approach would significantly undermine a local government’s ability to fund and manage its capital budget. MACo then worked on amendments with the Senate Finance Committee to establish the task force and dropped its opposition to the bill.


Debt Affordability Committee Considers School Construction

September 12, 2013

The State’s Capital Debt Affordability Committee heard a presentation today from the Public School Construction Program Director, David Lever. The agenda for the meeting included a review of several capital programs including school construction. During his time before the Committee, Dr. Lever provided an overview of the challenges of keeping school construction and renovation at pace with needed improvements during the recession, and going forward.

Dr. Lever described how the economic recession had impacted requests for school construction funding due to the inability of local jurisdictions to meet the required match for the funding.  From his report,

Anecdotally, we believe that the most important reason for the decrease in requests between FY 2008 and FY 2013 was the constraint on local governmental ability to provide the required local matching funds.  The decrease in work that was funded in this period implies that there is a growing backlog of projects that will need to be funded in the future.  As local fiscal outlooks improve, it is reasonable to expect that this backlog will be reflected in increased CIP requests.

There also seems to be a correlation between the recession and enrollment increases in public schools, which put additional pressure on school facilities.  For example,

The economic recession also appears to be responsible for the large student enrollment growth in Montgomery County.  MCPS officials tell us that the economy has led families to choose the public school system over private and parochial schools, and the lack of jobs elsewhere has forced households to stay in place rather than leave the county.

Dr. Lever also described how current economic factors could increase costs of construction in 2014 and subsequent years due to an increase in demand for construction, a decrease in the labor force, and a decrease of plant capacity.  There are more details on this topic, including analysis by The Gilbane Corporation in Dr. Lever’s complete report. One Maryland-based example of current conditions follows,

Increased construction costs. A noticeable decrease in bidding competition has been reported by the LEAs [Local Education Agencies] in the past 12 months, and this is also apparent from examination of the bid tabs that accompany most requests for IAC approval of contract award.  Whereas in the period from 2008 through 2010 it was usual to see as many as 14 contractors bidding for a major project like Calvert High School in Prince Frederick, with bid costs that had a very narrow spread, today we would expect to see as few as six to eight bidders, with a far wider bid spread.

On September 25, the Capital Debt Affordability Committee will vote on a recommended debt authorization level to support the fiscal year 2015 capital program.  Dr. Lever estimates funding needs for school construction at $15 billion based on facility assessments across the state.


Sustainable Cities Network Hosts Free Webinar on Deconstruction

August 19, 2013

The Sustainable Cities Network is offering a free webinar on “Maximizing Reuse and Recycling Through Deconstruction” on Thursday, August 29 at 1:00 PM Eastern Standard Time.  From email invitation:

 Deconstruction is the process of systematically removing a building or structure by taking it apart in the reverse order of construction, with a goal of maximizing reuse and recycling. It’s a great way to remove nuisance properties in your community and divert waste from your landfill while creating green jobs and reclaiming valuable building materials.

Join us for this free one-hour webinar featuring Dan Oswald, deconstruction program instructor for the Center on Sustainable Communities and Iowa Central Community College on Thursday, August 29, beginning at 10 a.m. Pacific; 11 a.m. Mountain; noon Central and 1 p.m. Eastern Time.

Mr. Oswald, an authority on deconstruction solutions, will provide an overview on the topic and share his extensive hands-on experience, success stories and insights on this rising industry.

This webinar is sponsored by the Center on Sustainable Communities (COSC), which serves as Iowa’s trusted educational resource for sustainable programming. Working collaboratively with local experts, the nonprofit provides consumer education, professional development and accessible resources that promote green building and improved quality of life. COSC’s new Iowa Deconstruction & Reuse Initiative supports the advancement of viable alternatives to demolition that benefit our economy and environment.

Click here to register.


IAC Shares School Construction Update

March 4, 2013

David Lever, Executive Director of Maryland’s Public School Construction program recently addressed MACo’s Legislative Committee.  Dr. Lever provided an overview of school construction funding and requests since 2006 and shared information about new programs for air conditioning in schools and physical enhancements to school security.  The Governor’s budget included $25 million each for the new programs.

The Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) approved draft regulations for the air conditioning program and the school security program in February.  According to Dr. Lever, the air conditioning funding would be used for upgrades in schools with no air conditioning, schools with window units, and schools with partial central air conditioning, prioritizing those schools with no air conditioning.  The school security funding will be distributed based on square footage of school structures, not on the number or students or other security factors.  As described in the draft regulations,

Allocations . . . will be distributed among [local education agencies] LEAs based on their proportion of total statewide square footage.  The Facilities Inventory Database of the Public School Construction Program as of April 5, 2013, will provide the square footage information to calculate each LEA’s share of the allocation.

For more information, view Dr. Lever’s complete presentation to MACo’s Legislative Committee


Interagency Committee on School Construction Budget Hearing

January 31, 2013

The Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) briefed the House Appropriation Committee’s Education & Economic Development Subcommittee today in Annapolis.  David Lever, Executive Director of the State of Maryland Public School Construction Program provided operating budget and personnel data for fiscal years 2012 through 2014, and an analysis of the fiscal year 2014 Maryland Executive Budget.  Overall the analysis showed that the number of school systems below the statewide average facility age has remained the same as last year, but it is still an improvement over past years.  As the briefing materials state,

The improvement in statewide average facility age reflects the State’s significant investment in school construction in recent years.  Maryland has gained four years in the effort to reduce the age of schools.  Seven years elapsed between 2005 and 2012, but on average the schools aged only three years more.  While the 2012 data shows improvement over the baseline, with seven local education agencies below the State average, the number remains the same as last year.

Find the full briefing materials here.

A complete listing of all fiscal 2014 budget documents affecting county governments can be found on MACo’s website under Research, then Budget and Tax.


Budget Analysis Reviews School Construction Issues

January 31, 2013

In the Department of Legislative Services’ analysis of the operating budget for the Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC), a series of issues are raised with the status of school facilities and the programs that promote them. The IAC budget hearing is scheduled for January 31. See the full analysis online.

More information on school construction issues is available on the IAC website.

A full list of budget hearings is available online. MACo has also placed selected budget hearings of general county interest in its online meetings calendar.


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