Pry Back the Door on School Construction Funding

The Capital Debt Affordability Committee enters a discussion of State and County school facility funding as they work towards a recommendation on the State’s debt levels. 

The second of three meetings of the Capital Debt Affordability Committee included questions and comments from the committee’s membership, which include State Treasurer Kopp, and State Budget Secretary Brinkley, and State Comptroller Franchot.

The Committee heard presentations from the Department of Budget and Management and the Director of Public School Construction. In an overview, the Department of Budget and Management described how school construction continues to be the largest slice of the State’s capital debt pie.

The Director of Public School Construction, reporting for the Interagency Commission on School Construction, described the challenges presented by rising school construction costs in recent years.

“The cost of school construction has been outpacing capital improvement program spending for a number of years” – Maryland Interagency Commission reports to the Capital Debt Affordability Committee

The Director of Public School Construction requested a total fiscal year 2020 capital allocation of $419.6 million. That figure includes $310 million for the capital improvement program and additional funding for construction programs targeted to address school overcrowding, school safety, indoor air quality, and improvements for aging schools. The Director also shared his goal to refine estimates for school construction cost needs in future years through use of a statewide facility assessment.

The discussion of the Committee, which will make its recommendation for State debt levels at its next meeting, revealed their interest and insight in the dynamics of the shared state and county responsibility for school construction. This dynamic is somewhat unique to Maryland as local school boards do not have a separate authority to raise revenue in our State.

Topics raised by the Committee included:

  • Eligible costs as a limiting factor in the State’s school construction participation;
  • Comparable commitments of county governments and the State toward school construction funding;
  • Whether Maryland provides more school construction funding than other states; and
  • The absence of a State fund dedicated to school maintenance costs.

For more meeting background, see September 12, 2018 Meeting Materials of the Capital Debt Affordability Committee.