Bill Could Fix “One Time” Funding For School Budgets

Delegate Anne Kaiser

As described previously on Conduit Street, the current process for counties and schools boards to make sure that one-time education costs are rightfully categorized can be time consuming, unclear, and uncertain.  A bill being consider by the legislature this year could help to improve that process in a way that would encourage additional investment in start-up cost for new instructional programs or projects to improve our schools’ technology and overall learning environments.

HB 1145, introduced by Delegate Anne Kaiser of Montgomery County would encourage county school boards and county governments to come together during budget discussions to determine costs that might be considered one-time non-recurring each year, so that county governments could provide their funding above the regular base education funding amount.  Delegate Kaiser is Chair, Education Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee.  Her co-sponsors on the legislation are Delegate Guy Guzzone, Deputy Majority Whip and Delegate John Bohanan, Chair of the Education and Economic Development Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee.

The current “nonrecurring costs” law was designed to allow counties to fund one-time items in the school budget without triggering a permanent funding requirement. The law has been used sporadically, but its success has been limited by some problems.  The changes that the bill would make are small, but could go a long way to making the one-time cost process more accessible.  Ideally, the bill would encourage every county board and county government in Maryland to consider the possibility for funding one-time costs when the budget needs or economic situations warrant that attention.

Here are a few of the areas that the bill would seek to improve:

Problem: System is Unclear

Current law provides general categories under which the State Board might consider one-time costs.  These categories leave counties and school boards unsure of whether or not a particular cost will qualify as a one-time cost from year-to-year. In part as a result of this uncertainty, applications for one-time cost exclusions have never been high, and in recent years counties have not taken advantage of the possibility to provide additional funding about required mandates.

HB 1145 CREATES A CLEARER AND EASIER PROCESS – This bill would provide a specific list of items that would qualify for a non-recurring cost exclusion, creating certainty needed for counties and school boards to have meaningful discussions regarding one-time costs in their current budgets.

Problem: Deadline is too early

Under current law, the door closes on a county or school board’s ability to apply for a one-time cost exclusion on March 31.  Many counties have not even submitted their budget at that time, and thus would not be prepared to consider school board expenditures within their budget.

HB 1145 SETS A LATER DEADLINE FOR LOCAL AGREEMENTS – This bill would allow for counties and school boards to apply for the exclusion of specific pre-approved one-time costs (following guidelines from MSDE) until June 1.

Problem: Not enough local collaboration

While the General Assembly intended to encourage partnership between counties and school boards, through allowing them to reduce required funding mandates through joint administration of county and school programs or other shared cost-reductions, few counties and school boards have taken advantage of these opportunities.

HB 1145 CREATES NEW INCENTIVES FOR LOCAL PARTNERSHIPS – This bill would ask that school boards would report on any agreements, meetings, or negotiations they have had regarding the cooperation and partnership elements when they are submitting their budget to the county board, in hopes of encouraging these conversations.

For more information on the current non-recurring cost process, see our previous post, Early Deadline for Submitting School Costs as “One Time”