Republican Governor Larry Hogan has asked the General Assembly to approve a plan to spend nearly $2 billion in additional school construction money statewide over the next four years.
And Baltimore County’s Executive, Democrat Johnny Olszewski, agrees.
Olszewski painted a dire picture before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Wednesday of what might happen without the money.
Olszewski said Baltimore County has 14 school projects that have been promised and are underway. Finishing them will cost about $600 million. And as he grapples with an $81 million budget shortfall, Olszewski said what the county needs is more money over the next several years, not just this year.
“Otherwise we’re going to have to pull the plug on contracts and delay schools that frankly parents are expecting to be done,” Olszewski said.
And then there are the county’s overcrowded and dilapidated high schools, including Towson, Lansdowne and Dulaney. Olszewski said dealing with those schools also will cost an additional $600 million.
Olszewski said, “Without your help and without the legislature’s help, I can’t even commit to a kindergartener today that they’re going to have a high school replacement.”
The proposal from the Hogan administration is to pay for the school construction with bonds, funded by money from casino revenues that are in the so-called education lock box. This school construction fund would be administered by the Maryland Stadium Authority, according to Matthew Palmer, the governor’s deputy legislative liaison.
Palmer said, “This would meet approximately 90 percent of the annual funding requests we have seen from school systems across the state.”
Earlier in this session, Olszewski asked legislators to give the county an additional $100 million a year for school construction over the next five years.