A Baltimore County Councilman is accusing County Executive Kevin Kamenetz of making fiscal decisions that are unsustainable.
Last fall, Kamenetz said he’d have to think about building a new Dulaney High School. Last week, he decided to do it. Councilman Tom Quirk is concerned the outgoing county executive is making promises the county won’t be able to keep.
Quirk and Kamenetz are both Democrats. And while Quirk applauds Kamenetz’s $1.3 billion plan to renovate and build dozens of schools, he said the county’s current fiscal path is unsustainable.
Quirk said, "It comes down to one of two choices: either increasing revenues or dramatically cutting spending."
Quirk said spending cuts would leave the county breaking Kamenetz’s promises after he leaves office.
Quirk is chairman of the council’s Spending Affordability Committee. He said by 2022, the interest the county is paying on its debt will exceed the county’s own guidelines.
Kamenetz is proposing two new high schools. One would go in Towson. And last week Kamenetz signed off on building a new Dulaney High School. A new high school costs $120 million, give or take. Quirk said the fate of these projects should be left to the next county executive.
“They come with a big price tag and the next county executive is going to have to figure out how do we pay for these things," Quirk said. "If we want things we have to pay for them.”
Quirk said he’s hearing no details from Kamenetz on how to pay for Dulaney. Quirk said he will try to get the council to delete from Kamenetz’s budget planning money for a new Dulaney High.
Kamenetz’s chief of staff Don Mohler rejected Quirk’s proposal to delay Dulaney. Mohler also dismissed Quirk’s concerns about the county’s fiscal stability.
Mohler said, “It’s one of the most fiscally well-managed counties in the nation and will continue to be so.”
Kamenetz is running for governor. He and Republican Governor Larry Hogan have feuded for years over conditions in the county schools. And it so happens Governor Hogan and members of his cabinet are fanning out Monday over Kamenetz’s political home turf as part of a daylong visit to the county. That includes a stop at Dulaney.
Quirk said there’s been enough grandstanding on schools.
“If we’re going to move forward in this way, I want the county executive and I want the governor to show us the money,” Quirk said.
Kamenetz has said any new high school needs to deal with crowding. Baltimore County School Board member Nick Stewart said there are old high schools in northeast and southeast Baltimore County that are more crowded than Dulaney.
“But our county executive has seen to short circuit that process, instead to say I’m going to select the winner and it’s going to be Dulaney,” Stewart said.
Mohler said it’s not just about crowding at one school. What makes a new Dulaney work, according to Mohler, is that it’s going to be bigger, with nearly 400 more seats.
“And that will go a long way, combined with a larger Towson, to solve overcrowding in the central area,” Mohler said.
Councilwoman Cathy Bevins said it does nothing to solve the crowding in her district, in Northeast Baltimore County. Bevins said she was caught off guard by the Dulaney decision. She too questioned how the county will pay for it.
And then there’s Lansdowne High School in Southwest Baltimore County. Quirk and Stewart represent Lansdowne on their respective boards. The school board is expected to vote soon on a $60 million renovation for Lansdowne. But now that Dulaney is getting a new school, Quirk and Stewart said Lansdowne should too. Stewart said the two schools have similar needs and should receive equal treatment.