Citing the lack of State funding for design plans, the Worcester County Commissioners voted to pause the new Buckingham Elementary School (BES) construction project.
The State of Maryland provides a 50/50 match for school construction based on certain factors, including square footage, classroom sizes, number of students, site conditions, and overall square footage. Proposed plans for a new 102,968-gross-square-foot BES exceeded the State formula maximum of 65,218 square feet.
“The commissioners were unaware, even as plans moved forward, that no State funding was available,” said Commissioner President Chip Bertino. “The loss of State matching funds places a significant burden on county taxpayers, who would shoulder one hundred percent of planning and construction costs if the county proceeded with the project as currently proposed.:
According to Worcester County:
While there was no notation or reference to the State funding omission in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) that the Board of Education (BOE) submitted to Worcester County Government (WCG) earlier this month, WCG staff completed an internal review of the CIP, discovered the irregularity, and contacted BOE officials, who confirmed they have known since February 2023 that the state will not allocate any funds for the design or construction of a new BES. Immediately after that, WCG staff informed the commissioners of their findings.
“The commissioners understand the concerns of parents and the community and remain committed to the BES project,” Commissioner President Bertino said. “Before moving the project forward, however, it is incumbent upon the BOE to take the necessary steps to determine a path forward.”
The county allocated $1.6 million in fiscal 2022 surplus funding for the project. The BOE reallocated the county funding to cover design costs, and the project was set to go to the bond market in fiscal 2025.
The Worcester County Commissioners remain committed to collaborating with BOE officials to find a path forward, and they will send a letter asking the Interagency Commission on School Construction to reconsider their earlier funding denial so that this much-needed project can move ahead.