County Council Approves Board of Education Request for Expanded Spending Affordability Guidelines for Capital Improvements Program

October 1, 1999
The County Council has responded favorably to a request by the Board of Education to approve new increased spending guidelines for school facilities.

The Council approved FY 2001-2006 Capital Improvements Program guidelines of $798 million at its September 28 meeting. The new guidelines surpass the Management and Fiscal Policy Committee's recommendation of $755 million and the county executive's recommendation of $780 million. Increases were also made in the individual FY 2001 and FY 2002 guidelines.

In recent testimony before the Council, Board of Education President Reginald M. Felton emphasized the need for the capital improvements spending guidelines to address enrollment growth, increased space needs resulting from reduction of class size, and the necessity to modernize older facilities.

"In an improving economy," said Felton, "we can afford to address our facilities needs more aggressively."

This year, total school enrollment will reach 131,000 students, with an expected peak of between 135,000 and 140,000 students in the 2005 to 2010 period. This growth will occur at the same time that the school system's schedule to modernize older facilities is being extended well beyond the 30-year life expectancy of these buildings.

Felton also emphasized the need to be mindful of the amount of local funding necessary to meet the local share requirement as more state aid for school construction is requested by Montgomery County.

The state funds about 25 cents on the dollar for eligible projects. This means that for $40 million in state aid, for example, the county would need to program approximately $160 million to qualify for that level of state funding.

"To address all of these issues, we must rethink what is affordable in a context of what we cannot afford to let happen," said Felton. "Having overcrowded schools and a deteriorating school infrastructure become impediments rather than incentives for economic growth and an expanded tax base for the county."

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