Board Urges PTA Support of School Construction

September 11, 2003
Montgomery County Board of Education President Patricia B. O'Neill has urged local and county PTA leaders to support significant improvements in construction funding as the Montgomery County Public Schools grapples with the urgent need for dozens of new schools, additions, elementary gymnasiums, modernizations, technology upgrades, full-day kindergarten classrooms, and other improvements, including more student restrooms in older facilities.

The construction priorities include 10 new schools, 20 new additions to existing schools, accelerated modernizations of older schools, gymnasiums at 33 elementary schools, technology modernization for all schools, and core improvements in six schools. The efforts also would include safety and security measures, roof replacements, maintenance projects, and improved toilet facilities in 57 schools.

The improvements would add 671 classrooms, not only for new enrollment growth but also to reduce the need for temporary relocatable classrooms. Currently, the system has 684 such relocatable units throughout the county.

The modernization of older facilities includes moving up elementary school plans by one year beginning with College Gardens Elementary, by one year for Richard Montgomery High School, and by two years for other high schools that would follow the Richard Montgomery project. The appeal was made this week as the school system approaches the biannual review of the capital budget for school construction and improvements.

In a letter to PTA leaders this week, Mrs. O'Neill outlined anticipated school construction priorities totaling $960 million over the next six years for new, expanded, and improved facilities in a rapidly growing school system of 140,000 students. The current six-year plan totals $637 million.

Mrs. O'Neill noted that seeking increased funding during the current economic climate will be “an arduous task,” but she said “this task can be accomplished, and it is vital that all cluster coordinators and parent-teacher association representatives participate in this budget process to achieve our ultimate goal.”

The Board of Education president said the need for parent and community involvement is necessary in pivotal upcoming decisions by the Montgomery County Council on setting the county's spending affordability guideline (SAG) and the changes to the annual growth policy (AGP), both of which have a major impact on funding for the school system's annual capital budget and the six-year capital improvement program (CIP).

One of the immediate objectives is to improve the funding for school construction through four key areas:

* Increase the spending affordability guidelines, preferably to a minimum of $175 million per year, over the six-year period;
* Dedicate the revenue from the recordation tax to school construction;
* Approve the Montgomery County Planning Board's recommendation to change the AGP and include an impact tax solely for school construction;
* Seek a minimum of $150 million from the state over the next six-year period.

The spending affordability guideline set by the County Council will determine the amount of general obligation bonds that can be sold, which ultimately determines the size of the capital budget for the entire county. The Management and Fiscal Policy (MFP) Committee of the County Council is scheduled to meet to discuss this issue, as well as the proposed impact tax for schools and the designation of the recordation tax revenues.

The Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) Committee of the County Council also will meet to discuss the proposed changes to the annual growth policy. The change to this policy, as recommended by the Montgomery County Planning Board, would create an impact tax for new development in the county, designated solely for school construction.

The following is the timeline for meetings of the MFP and PHED committees.

Spending Affordability Guidelines (SAG)

Tuesday, September 16 TBD Council sets draft guidelines for the public hearing
Tuesday, September 23 1:30 p.m. Council holds the public hearing on SAG limits
Thursday, September 25 2:00 p.m. MFP develops SAG recommendation
Tuesday, October 7 TBD Council action on SAG limits

Annual Growth Policy (AGP

Saturday, September 13 9:30 a.m. Council “Teach-In” on the AGP
Tuesday, September 16 7:00 p.m. Council hearing on AGP
Thursday, September 18 7:00 p.m. Council hearing on AGP (continued)
Monday, September 22 9:30 a.m. First PHED Committee work session on AGP
Monday, September 29 9:00 a.m. Second PHED Committee work session on AGP
Late October (tentative) TBD Council approval

Copies of the memo to PTA leaders and the attached talking points on the CIP and the annual growth policy are available at the links below.

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