New Bill Promotes Partnership Approach to School Funding

A newly introduced bill — HB 1145 sponsored by Delegates Anne Kaiser, John Bohanan, and Guy Guzzone — would create new and stronger incentives for county and school board partnerships to fund education. Empowering such local agreements was adopted as one of MACo’s 2014 legislative initiatives.

The bill would create a special process for approval of “nonrecurring costs” in annual school budgets when there is agreement and partnership between counties and school boards.  Current state law approval processes can create a disincentive for counties to invest beyond their required contribution because the processes fail to provide certainty on what funding will be required again in future years.

Under current law, a county may appropriate funding above the required “maintenance of effort” (MOE) level and request that it be considered as a nonrecurring cost and therefore excluded from the following year’s base calculation.  This provision, put into law in the mid-1990s, was designed to accommodate one-time investments in a variety of areas like technology investments, library books, new program start-up.  Its use has been limited and intermittent — HB 1145 seems to make the process more straightforward, particularly benefiting jurisdictions where the county governing body and the board of education have collaborated on an agreed-to set of funding and projects.

HB 1145 would ask the State Board of Education to develop annual guidelines, including a special list of certain expenses available to be approved as nonrecurring in the coming fiscal year.  If a county and school board agree on a funding priority on the list, they would have an extended deadline (June 1) to submit them for administrative approval.

Montgomery County Council President Craig Rice, Chair of MACo’s Education Committee, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee earlier in the session and offered support for clearer and more collaborative budgeting options.  As described by Council President Rice, the new legislation will be an important step in developing county-school board collaboration and encouraging investment: “It’s extremely important…working together to make sure we’re both doing all we can to support education.”

HB 1145 also creates a venue, during the school board presentation of its budget to the county governing body, for a report and discussion of collaborative efforts between the county and schools to share services, reduce costs, and otherwise partner on budget and administrative functions.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties