The Build to Learn Act of 2019, a $2.2 billion school construction funding bill, having passed the House of Delegates, has a hearing in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.
The Maryland Association of Counties supported the legislation as introduced with amendment, recommending changes to the legislation to ensure its accessibility for all counties. MACo’s Legislative Committee re-affirmed its position on the amended bill at its meeting prior to the Senate hearing.
Maryland counties have long advocated for increases in the State’s commitment to school construction, flexibility in public-private partnerships in school construction, and a broader definition of eligible costs. All of those topics are addressed in HB 727, the Build to Learn Act.
“Even with our $500 million that we’ve included in our budget, we will fall $195 million short of meeting the needs of our counties in school construction this year.” — House Appropriations Committee Chair McIntosh testifying before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on the Build to Learn Act
Chair McIntosh also shared how this program will help many counties throughout Maryland, including meeting 80-100% of the needs of many small and mid-sized counties, while some of the larger counties will still have major gaps between their needs and available funding.
She described how this does not change the State’s main school construction funding program, the capital improvement program and how it will complement that program with additional funding, and statutory changes that provide an historic opportunity for advancing school construction progress statewide.
County executives from several counties also testified in favor of the legislation. They shared the importance of the legislation for all counties, including:
- a stronger state-local partnership on school construction
- civil rights equality
- educational advancement
- student health and safety protection
- local economic development
Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner, who represented county governments on the 21st Century School Facilities (Knott) Commission, shared how this legislation would fulfill some of the recommendations of the Knott Commission, including:
- providing flexibility for counties to use the Maryland Stadium Authority to manage local school construction projects
- support the concept of expanding eligible costs for small counties to include architectural, engineering and other planning and consulting costs
“Counties have been advocating for more funding for school construction for many years.” — County Executive Jan Gardner, MACo’s Legislative Committee Chair
For more information, see the previous posts on Conduit Street: