State Board Pares Cuts, Spares Counties

On Wednesday, the Board of Public Works (BPW) voted to approve budget cuts of approximately $63 million – but, the cuts did not include the Administration’s original proposal to eliminate $6,028,885 in disparity grant aid to certain counties.

The Maryland Department of Budget and Management originally proposed to level fund disparity grants at the fiscal 2017 level, resulting in cuts to Prince George’s ($4,245,462), Baltimore City ($946,445), Wicomico ($587,801), Cecil ($196,240), and Washington ($52,938). Those counties were to receive an increase in their disparity grant aid in fiscal 2018 per the statutory formula, but the General Assembly required those counties to provide those funds to their school systems above the required maintenance of effort (MOE) funding in fiscal 2018.

In response, MACo sent the members of the Board of Public Works a letter requesting them to vote against the proposal. The counties had already complied with the State’s requirement to provide extra funding to their school boards, anticipating receipt of the grant aid.

From MACo’s letter:

MACo does not regularly intervene in midyear funding issues before the Board of Public Works. In fact, in 2016, following a deep decline in State revenue forecasts, MACo did not directly object to the midyear cuts proposed and accepted – including a roughly analogous flat-funding of the disparity grant program. It is the specific circumstance of this proposed cut that moves our Association to raise this concern.

The State obliged counties receiving a disparity grant increase to direct these funds to education. The counties did so. To now rescind that very funding unfairly penalizes other county-funded priorities. Given the lack of an immediate fiscal crisis, MACo respectfully urges that you vote against this reduction to county disparity grants.

The Daily Record reports on the cuts:

Disparity grants to local governments totaling more than $6 million make up the bulk of the proposed cuts withdrawn from the original proposal.  …

Few details were provided as to why some of the cuts were rescinded.

The Maryland Association of Counties, which represents all 24 major jurisdictions, wrote to all three members of the Board of Public Works urging them to reject the proposed cuts to the disparity grant program.

MACo thanks the Governor and Board members for recognizing this difficulty, and adjusting plans accordingly.