Special Case Bill Raises Universal Concerns with State School Construction Funding

A bill to expand the types of school construction costs eligible for state funding in certain scenarios reveals how eligible cost definitions limit state funding for K-12 school facilities generally.

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Large capital projects like new schools can be difficult for small jurisdictions to fund, especially when current rules make some costs the sole responsibility of the county.

Legislation in the General Assembly would makes land acquisition, architectural, engineering, consulting, and other school construction planning costs eligible costs for state funding in certain cases. Generally, these costs are not eligible for any state funding — meaning that they are borne entirely by county governments even as school construction in Maryland has long been considered to be a shared responsibility between the Counties and the State.

The circumstances for expanding the definition of eligible costs envisioned in the legislation, would be for counties that face a major school construction project and have limited options for raising the fund. When a county is already at its maximum income rate, serves schools in which 50% of students are FARMS-eligible, and is seeking to build a school whose total project costs will be equal to 90% of the county’s total operating budget for the current fiscal year.

This legislation is sponsored by Delegates Ghrist, Anderton, Arentz, Beitzel, Hornberger, Jacobs, Krimm, Mautz, and Sample–Hughes; and Senators Hershey, Carozza, and Eckardt.

For more information, see the bill information page for HB 534 Public Schools – State Aid for School Construction – Eligible Costs.

For more information about eligible costs, see It’s Not Apples-to-Apples in School Construction Funding.