County Officials Participate in School Construction Funding Study

As reported previously on Conduit Street, Governor Martin O’Malley issued an executive order in May directing the Interagency Committee on School Construction to work with the Department of Budget and Management and the Department of Legislative Services and conduct a study on school construction in Maryland.

Last week, county government and school board officials met with the Interagency Committee (IAC) and representatives of the Department of Budget and Management and Legislative Services in a kick-off meeting for the study, which is due in September 2015. More than fifteen county government budget and finance directors and elected officials attended the meeting.

The meeting was held at the Anne Arundel County Board of Education. Dr. David Lever, Executive Director of the IAC, and Rachel Hise of the Department of Legislative Services gave opening remarks.  Ms.Hise said,

The legislature is interested in your input and ideas on how to leverage the large amount of money we are investing to meet the local needs of school construction as quickly as we can.

Dr. Lever then opened the floor up for discussion. The many topics raised during discussion included:

  1. Employing a block grant approach that allows more flexibility in use of school construction funding
  2. Developing a state-level bonding authority for school construction, similar to the County Transportation Bond program that enables various counties to leverage their share of their Highway User Revenues through the Maryland Department of Transportation
  3. Using impact fees and building excise taxes to fund school construction
  4. Using energy performance contracts to offset school construction costs and social impact bonds to fund school construction
  5. Increasing the state property tax to fund school construction and extending the terms of state bonds for school construction
  6. Establishing taxes for debt service and matching funds for school construction projects through referendum vote of county residents, as in Delaware.
  7. Eliminating barriers to school construction such as prevailing wage laws, contracting rules, and stormwater and LEED regulations, and reducing financial burdens on local governments, such as teacher pension costs
  8. Using a standardized designs for schools to reduce design costs
  9. Converting school schedules to occur throughout the year and rotating the use of schools year-round, as in North Carolina
  10. Working with community colleges to share space for K-12 education

For more information, or to provide feedback for this study, please contact Robin J. Clark, Policy Analyst, Maryland Association of Counties, 410.269.0043.