Providing a quality education for students in public schools is a goal shared by public officials throughout Maryland. State funding laws intended to encourage education spending, however, may also discourage it.
State “maintenance of effort” laws require a county to provide the same amount of education funding or more on a per-pupil basis each year. On a student-by-student basis, funding is never to decline.
Maintenance of effort can discourage additional investment, especially during a faltering economic recovery, when future revenues are uncertain.
A county with extra revenue one year might be hesitant to commit it to schools — that commitment would be tantamount to creating a new ongoing annual funding obligation.
A legal provision called nonrecurring costs, however, allow county governments provide one-time school funding for one-time education costs without triggering perpetual mandates.
On average fewer than eight counties per year take advantage of this education budgeting tool.
Not all education costs are annually recurring per-student costs. One-time education expenses might include costs to:
- build new computer laboratories;
- make technology enhancements;
- start-up new instructional programs; or
- purchase books for a school library
There is a mechanism for appropriately excluding these one-time education costs from the maintenance of effort calculation. Counties must have special approval to do so, however.
Data from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) in 2014 revealed that on average fewer than eight counties per year take advantage of this budgeting tool. Learning this, MACo developed Non-Recurring Costs For County School Budgeting: A County Official’s Guide to the Process and Laws Behind the System.
In the Guide, MACo aims to improve the accessibility and use of the nonrecurring cost exclusion, covering:
- How does a county apply to have nonrecurring costs approved?
- What categories of costs can be considered as nonrecurring?
- When does the school board need to agree with the request?
- What requests have been approved and denied in recent years?
All the submission forms, statutes, regulations, and guideline documents relevant to this process are provided in appendices to the Guide.