Baltimore County News
Actions by Governor and Comptroller are illegal and irresponsible; Lever’s departure regrettable
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz called the actions by Governor Hogan and Comptroller Franchot yesterday illegal and irresponsible.
“Baltimore County is in the midst of a comprehensive $1.3 billion plan to build and renovate schools, add classroom seats, and install central air conditioning in every single Baltimore County school by 2019,” said Kamenetz. “In his desire to punish Baltimore County and Baltimore City, the Governor intentionally misstated the county’s plan, refused multiple opportunities to be presented with the facts, and disregarded the clear legal advice of the Attorney General of the State of Maryland. It is regrettable, but understandable, that the longstanding and well-respected Chief of State School Construction would resign in protest.”
Prior to the Board of Public Works meeting, Attorney General Brian Frosh issued an opinion letter to Governor Hogan advising that the Governor was without the legal authority to mandate portable air conditioning units in local schools. The Governor chose to blatantly disregard the legal opinion and proceeded with just such a mandate and clearly exceeded his authority.
State Treasurer Nancy Kopp also warned the Governor that his action could jeopardize the state's coveted triple AAA Bond rating. Governor Hogan chose to ignore the written opinion letter from the State's bond counsel.
Baltimore County is in the midst of an unprecedented 1.3 billion dollar school construction program, building 15 new schools, 11 additions, modernizing schools, and providing central air conditioning to every single school. Never before in the history of this state has a County embarked on such a comprehensive school construction program, all being completed without any increase in the tax.
When the program began in 2011, 90 County Schools were without air-conditioning. With the current budget, 80 are funded or installed and every single school is now funded or programmed to be completed by 2019.
"The Governor’s mandate that we provide room air conditioners to the remaining schools by this fall is impossible due to procurement laws, which require the school system to publicly bid all projects and follow state procurement procedures," said County Director of Budget and Finance Keith Dorsey. "Moreover, given the age of the remaining buildings, electricians would have to be hired to provide extensive electrical upgrades to handle window units. It is also fiscally irresponsible because we would be taking needed funds from providing central air for a temporary fix. It's ironic that the Governor would hold 10 million dollars of funds as ransom. Doing so threatens several projects that would otherwise be used to provide central air."
In a stunning development late yesterday afternoon, the Executive Director of the Interagency Committee on School Construction Dr. David Lever resigned in protest over the behavior of Governor Hogan. Dr. Lever, a nationally renowned expert in school construction, has headed the state's school construction program since 2003, serving two republican governors and one democratic governor
In his resignation letter, Dr. Lever stated, "I find that I cannot be party to this degradation of a school construction program that I have worked hard to advance in professionalism and comprehensiveness….The exercise of blunt authority demonstrated at the Board of Public Works meeting of May 11, and the foreclosure of any reasonable discussion on this issue, substitutes the preferences of the Board of Public Works for the expertise of a range of local and state individuals who have made education and school facility matters their life work."
Dr. Lever also noted the Governor’s refusal to allow Baltimore County schools Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance to testify about the facts of the county's comprehensive plan, stating, "The disrespect with which these dedicated, serious officials were treated at the meeting of May 11 is no less than astonishing."
Fiction and Facts
Fiction: The Governor stated, "We have 24 jurisdictions; 22 of them have solved this problem and do not have hot kids in classrooms. There's only two that have failed, Baltimore County and Baltimore City. "
Fact: Five jurisdictions still have unairconditioned classrooms, including the Republican-led counties of Garrett, Harford, and Wicomico.
Fiction: The Governor stated that County Executive Kamenetz "vetoed" a proposal by the Board of Education of Baltimore County to spend $10 million on portable air conditioning units.
Fact: The County Board of Education rejected a proposed amendment regarding portable air conditioners in the budget presented to the County Executive.
Fiction: The Governor said that the County refused to come before the Board of Public Works to outline the county’s comprehensive plan.
Fact: On September 25, 2015, the County Executive provided several available dates that he and Superintendent Dance could appear before the Board of Public Works. The Governor never acknowledged or responded to the request. On May 11, 2016 Baltimore County schools Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance attended the Board of Public Works meeting, but the governor denied the opportunity for him to testify, despite the request of Treasurer Kopp.
Fiction: The governor blamed the lack of air conditioning in Baltimore County on “petty politics, poor management and indifference.”
Fact: Since 2011, Baltimore County has funded a comprehensive $1.3 billion plan that has been approved by the county council and voter referenda. For every one state dollar received, two county dollars are invested.
$1.3 billion Schools for our Future
- 15 new schools
- 11 additions
- Every Baltimore County Public School will have central air conditioning
- Providing central air conditioning for an additional 50,563 students
- 12,289 new seats built
- Net gain of 7,925 new seats
Bedford Elementary, funded July 1, 2019
Berkshire Elementary, funded July 1, 2018
Catonsville Elementary, opens August 2016
Chadwick Elementary, funded July 1, 2019
Colgate Elementary, funded July 1, 2019
Dundalk Elementary, funded July 1, 2017
Lansdowne Elementary, opens August 2018
Lyons Mill Elementary, opened August 2015
Mays Chapel Elementary, opened August 2014
NE area- Joppa Road site, opens August 2018
NE area- Ridge Road site, funded July 1, 2019
Relay Elementary, opens August 2017
Summit Park Elementary, funded July 1, 2019
Victory Villa Elementary, opens August 2018
Westowne Elementary, opens August 2016
Deer Park Elementary, funded July 1, 2019
Fort Garrison Elementary, funded July 1, 2019
Hampton Elementary, opened August 2013
Hereford High, opened August 2015
Padonia International Elementary, opens August 2017
Pikesville High, complete August 2016
Red House Run Elementary, funded July 1, 2019
Scotts Branch Elementary, funded July 1, 2019
Sparks Elementary, opened August 2015
Stoneleigh Elementary, opened August 2013
Westchester Elementary, opens August 2016
Central Air Conditioning Project Installation Schedule
Joppa View ES
Villa Cresta ES
Baltimore Highlands ES
Bear Creek ES
Chapel Hill ES
Edmondson Heights ES
Pleasant Plains ES
Pot Spring ES
Battle Grove ES
Church Lane ES
Golden Ring MS
Middle River MS
Patapsco Center for the Arts
Stemmers Run MS
Dr. S. Dallas Dance, Superintendent, Baltimore County Public Schools
Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) is so fortunate to have the support of students, their families, staff, elected officials, business partners, and community members. By working together, we are preparing every student for success in the future and ensuring that the county remains strong.
Every year, we ask for your opinions on how our schools and system are doing so that we can pinpoint areas for improvement. The 2016 BCPS Stakeholder Satisfaction Survey is now available online at https://bcps.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_eQm7Z37Wguu2eRT.
There are separate but related questions for students in Grades 4-12, parents, community members, and staff. The survey is anonymous and only takes about five minutes via phone, tablet, or computer. We want to know what you think about academics, safety, communication, and organizational effectiveness.
Last year, we received almost 75,000 responses. That was a huge increase from prior years, but I know we can do better. Individuals who fit into more than one category can take the survey more than once: as a staff member, as a community member, and for each school your children attend.
Parents can choose to take the survey at a school or the public library. In addition to English, this year’s survey is also available for parents and community members in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Urdu, Arabic, Nepali, Yoruba, Russian, French, Tagalog, Uzbek, Amharic, Korean and Gujarati.
I want to hear from all of you! Please take a moment and share your voice by February 29.
Proposal Would Air Condition and Eliminate Overcrowding in Every School by 2021; 2019 if State Accelerates Funding
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, School Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance, local and state legislators announced this morning a delineated plan to air condition and eliminate overcrowding in every remaining County school.
The plan is projected to be completed by 2021, or even by 2019 if State officials accelerate funding for air conditioning projects in Baltimore County. The revised proposal of the County’s ongoing “Schools for Our Future” initiative represents an historic commitment of $1.3 billion, 69 percent funded by the County, and 31 percent requested from the State. The County has budgeted 50 percent more for school construction and renovation over the next five years – an increase from $100 million to $150 million.
“If the State can accelerate its customary match of County dollars for air conditioning,” said Kamenetz, “every Baltimore County school will have air conditioning in place by 2019, two years earlier than without the accelerated State match. In less than five years we’ve increased the number of schools with air conditioning in the County from 48 percent to 85 percent. While that is very gratifying, it is time to finish the job. I look forward to working with Dr. Dance, the Board of Education, County Council and State delegation to get Governor Hogan’s support of this effort.”
“While significant progress has been made to modernize all of our schools, I want to sincerely thank the County Executive and his team for ensuring that all schools within our County have comfortable learning environments, by proposing a plan to accelerate providing air conditioning to all schools,” said Dance.
“The collaboration between the County Executive, County Council, state legislators and our Board of Education to not only put air conditioning in our schools, but to also modernize our schools to accommodate enrollment increases, shows a strong partnership and commitment to all our students and families.”
“I have been fighting to get every school in the County air conditioned since the day I was elected,” said Council Chair Cathy Bevins. “I am delighted that County Executive Kamenetz is moving forward with a plan that would complete the work by 2019. I will work with the County Council and our State delegation to do whatever it takes to secure the State funding necessary to match Baltimore County’s accelerated plan.”
“The General Assembly delegation of Baltimore County looks forward to working with the Governor to advance our collective priorities for the good of our schoolchildren,” said Senator Delores Kelley.
“Having already written to Governor Hogan asking for more funding, I believe the Baltimore County administration and Superintendent’s plan sets the table for providing the funding for what the County needs for our schools,” said 42nd District Delegate Steve Lafferty, who chairs the County’s delegation.
View a detailed schedule (PDF) for completion of air conditioning at all remaining County schools without air.
Letter from the County Executive
The County Executive emailed the following letter to every principal and PTA president in the County this afternoon.
Dear Principal and PTA President,
First of all, I hope that you have had an excellent beginning to the new school year. Thank you for all that you do each and every day for our students. Team BCPS makes us all very proud.
Over the past few weeks, a number of questions have been raised about the current status of the County’s effort to complete air conditioning projects. Please feel free to share this important information with your school community.
When I began my term in office five years ago, I inherited a twin dilemma of aging schools and rising enrollment. Eighty percent of our schools were more than 40 years old, with just 48 percent air conditioned. We embarked on a record $1.3 billion Schools for Our Future program to eliminate all current and projected overcrowding, and modernize our schools with air conditioning, technology and public safety improvements. This commitment increases by 50 percent the amount of bond funding that we have previously allocated for school construction.
Our efforts so far are impressive. So far, we have funded seven new schools and eleven additions, and with the current funding in place, the number of air conditioned schools has increased from 48 percent to 85 percent.
With current levels of funding, we can finish the job by 2021, with the County putting in $2 for every $1 provided by the State.
If the State were to match us dollar for dollar, we can get the job done even sooner.
As we move forward, Dr. Dance and I will be working with the County Council and our State delegation to secure accelerated State funding which would allow us to complete the remaining projects even sooner than currently programmed. I will keep you apprised of our progress.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is it possible to complete all of the remaining schools prior to 2021?
A: Yes. At the present time, Baltimore County contributes $2 for every $1 of State funding for total school construction and renovation. We believe the State should accelerate its funding for air conditioning, which would allow Baltimore County to expedite the completion schedule.
Q: Is it possible to install window air conditioners while waiting for these projects to be completed?
A: The Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) prohibits State funding for window units in schools, finding that window units are not as energy efficient as central air, requires a higher level of maintenance, and would delay for 15 years any State contribution toward central air.
Moreover, given the deteriorating condition of the remaining schools in question, window air conditioners do not appear to be a wise choice for Baltimore County. Aging electrical wiring will not accommodate the electrical needs of window units and would require hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement electrical upgrades for a very short-term, “band aid” approach.
There are other issues as well. For example, new schools for both Westowne and Catonsville Elementary are currently under construction and will open for students in August 2016. In June 2015, there were four days of school where temperatures exceeded 90 degrees. It would make no sense to upgrade the electrical systems in those schools, install window units for four days and then demolish those same schools a few weeks later. That would simply be fiscally irresponsible.
Q: Didn’t Anne Arundel County successfully install window units?
A: In 2002, Anne Arundel County installed window units in 36 schools as a stop-gap measure before proceeding with installation of central air. Today, 13 years later, 15 schools in Anne Arundel County still have window units. The installation of window units only served to delay the central air installation, costing taxpayers more than if they had just installed central air initially. Baltimore County’s Schools for Our Future program encompasses more than just central air; it also includes systemic upgrades for infrastructure.
Completion Date Schedule
I have attached a schedule showing completion dates (PDF) for all of the remaining schools. While I recognize that every school community would like to be first on the list, I know that people understand that there must be a process in place to move forward with funding. The list was developed by the school system using a variety of factors: overcrowding needs, Mechanical, Engineering and Plumbing Assessments (MEC), identifying the least costly schools on the front end in order to complete as many schools as possible, geographic distribution, and the more complicated need for replacement schools and renovations that also consider capacity.
Video Detailing Schools for Our Future
Please visit Baltimore County’s YouTube page to view and share the “Schools for Our Future" video.
I hope this information is helpful, and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have additional questions. Working together, we will not rest until 100 percent of our schools are air conditioned. It is what our students and teachers deserve.
Very truly yours,
Interagency Committee on School Construction Letter
View the Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) letter. (PDF)