Baltimore County News
Director, Baltimore County Office of Budget and Finance
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s budget for FY 2017 continues the County’s tradition of fiscal responsibility and expedites important school construction and air conditioning projects at County schools.
The Baltimore County Council voted this morning to adopt County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's proposed budget for FY 2017 with only minor changes. The County’s General Fund Operating Budget for FY 2017 is $1.99 billion, an increase of only 1.27% above the previous year, and falls within the Council’s spending affordability guidelines. Highlights of this year’s Total Operating Budget include reaching multi-year agreements with almost all of the employee groups, an $8 million increase in the Maintenance-of-Effort funding of the Public Schools – including 104 new positions, and second year in a row of more than $100 million in PAYGO funding (cash from the Operating Budget) of the Capital Budget.
The FY 2017 capital budget is more than $373 million, including $127 million in PAYGO funds. 51% of the total ($195.7 million) is dedicated to school renovation and construction projects for Baltimore County Public Schools. This Capital Budget level does not reflect the $39 million supplement for accelerating school air conditioning that has been focus of several recent news reports. In July, the County Executive will ask the County Council to approve the supplement so that the final six air conditioning only projects can be completed by the fall of 2018.
Despite the rhetoric coming from some outside critics who have no knowledge of Baltimore County finances and our ability to fulfill on time our $1.3 billion Schools for Our Future promise, the upcoming supplement is not a reaction but a continued effort that began in 2011, i.e., to put all available dollars into school construction. Furthermore, the supplement will force Baltimore County to issue bonds in order to forward fund the State’s $44 million share of the cost. The additional $44 million brings the total FY 2017 amount the County will advance the schools on behalf of the State to $166 million. While the outside critics may focus on inventing motives for the County’s actions, they fail to respond to the real question – “When will the State pay off its $166 million I.O.U. to Baltimore County?”
I invite you to take a look at the comprehensive budget originally proposed by the County Executive. Meanwhile, here is the FY 17 adopted budget at a glance:
County expects to be fully reimbursed $166.4 million for advanced state share
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced that the County will advance the State's share of school construction funding to expedite central air conditioning for every remaining elementary and middle school classroom by fall 2017. The remaining schools had been scheduled to receive central air upgrades over the next three fiscal years, delayed in part due to the failure of the Governor to advance funding for the State’s share of school construction projects.
In 2011, Baltimore County embarked on a $1.3 billion Schools for our Future program, the most ambitious school construction initiative in the history of the State. The County is in the home stretch of constructing 15 new schools and 11 additions, while adding seats to eliminate current elementary school over-crowding while also modernizing schools. During the program, a backlog of 90 schools without central air is eliminated.
Under the current program, for every one State dollar received for school construction, Baltimore County has invested two County tax dollars, more than the one-to-one customary match. In the proposed FY17 budget, the County included $121.8 million to forward-fund a majority of the State’s share of the school construction program. The cost of the remaining air conditioning upgrades is $83 million, with $45 million due from the State and $39 million due from the County, after accounting for past County payments of $15 million.
Now, the County proposes to further advance the State's share of the remaining $45 million expense to complete by 2017 central air upgrade projects in every county school that is not otherwise slated for replacement or major renovation. Due to the size of the high school facilities, those projects will be completed by August 2018. Therefore, the County will be forward-funding $166.4 million on behalf of the State, and will seek timely reimbursement.
After reviewing year-end budget projections for the school system, Schools Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance approached County Executive Kamenetz about the possibility of utilizing $20 million of surplus funds to forward fund the installation of central air conditioning. The County Executive agreed, thanking Dr. Dance for his budgetary management that helped allow the County to expedite these projects.
"Our students and teachers deserve a climate controlled and energy efficient central air conditioning system, and not window units from Home Depot, as suggested by the Governor and Comptroller. Despite the fiscally irresponsible suggestion by Governor Hogan that Baltimore County waste money on temporary window air conditioning units, we insist on installing central air systems," said Executive Kamenetz. "Last week, Governor Hogan withheld $10 million of State funds as ransom so that we would capitulate and install window units. It's ridiculous that we have to advance the State’s share of funding to do the job right the first time."
After factoring in costs to bid electrical upgrades and state procurement costs for window units, Baltimore County officials believe they can install central air in the same time frame it would take to install portable window units. "For the Governor to suggest that window units could be installed this summer, knowing full well that under State procurement law it would take at least sixteen months, is disingenuous," said Kamenetz. "Shame on the governor for not stepping forward with the state share to complete the job in a timely manner."
“I am deeply appreciative of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and his staff and their efforts to collaborate with us to find long-term solutions to our infrastructure needs," said Dance. “Through sound fiscal management, along with the County Executive and County Council's support, this plan allows us to not only provide central air conditioning in our buildings but to further accelerate our efforts."
The remaining schools to receive central air upgrades, subject to council approval, are:
- Franklin High School
- Golden Ring Middle School
- Kenwood High School
- Middle River Middle School
- Southwest Academy
- Stemmers Run Middle School
“I thank members of the County Council, our State delegation, and the Board of Education who have been supportive of our comprehensive approach from the beginning,” concluded Kamenetz. “The success of our program has been a true team effort.”
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
Revised April 6, 2016