Funding Losses will Delay School Construction Projects Next Year

October 29, 2001
A significant shortfall projected in both state and county funding will require major delays in planned school modernizations and individual school construction projects, such as additions and elementary gymnasiums, for the Montgomery County Public Schools, according to recommendations announced today [Monday, October 29].

The delays for school modernizations, additions, and gyms are outlined in the recommended Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 Capital Budget and the FY 2003-2008 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) submitted to the Board of Education by Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. Most other projects for school enrollment and capacity, capital maintenance, and health and safety remain as planned.

“I recognize that school communities have waited years for important capital projects and that these recommendations are disruptive and disappointing,” said Dr. Weast, who noted that his proposals “stand in stark contrast” to previous plans for school construction.

“Sadly, current economic realities affecting our county, state, and nation preclude us from moving forward with these projects at this time,” he said. “I am optimistic that once financial prosperity is restored, we will be able to improve the capital project schedules that have been delayed.”

The delays are prompted by a projected shortfall of nearly $100 million in state aid over the next six years, in addition to no significant increase in county revenue. The limited county revenue is creating concerns for the operating budget next year, as well. The superintendent recommended that increases in revenue available to the county should be directed to school operations, not school construction, so that ongoing reform efforts could continue in such areas such as curriculum, early childhood education, accountability, and class size reductions.

The recommended capital budget for FY 2003 is $105.8 million, which is $4.7 million less than the amount previously approved for FY 2003 in the CIP adopted in May 2001 and approximately $53 million less than what was being previously planned.

The six-year CIP, ending in FY 2008, is $644.4 million, a decrease of $51.4 million from the previously approved six-year CIP and approximately $176 million less than what would have been recommended if funding were available.

The delay would mean that every elementary school modernization not under construction in the current fiscal year would be postponed. Only three of the postponed elementary modernizations would be completed in the six-year CIP period Somerset, Kensington-Parkwood, and College Gardens elementary schools.

Middle school modernizations would be delayed by two years beginning with Parkland Middle School, and high schools will be delayed a minimum of two years beginning with Richard Montgomery High School.

If no changes were made, the cost of all of the currently scheduled projects over the next six years, with adjustments for inflation and new projects needed to address enrollment growth, would be approximately $820 million, an increase of 18 percent over the currently adopted six-year CIP and significantly above current revenue projections. As recommended, the six-year CIP is more than 25 percent below what would have been proposed if previous funding patterns had been maintained.

The Board of Education has scheduled a worksession on November 7, 2001, to consider the recommended capital budget and CIP, as well as proposed boundary changes in the Albert Einstein and Quince Orchard clusters.

The Board will hold a public hearing on the CIP recommendation and any Board adopted boundary alternatives on November 14 and 15, 2001. The Board is scheduled to take action on the capital budget and CIP on November 27, 2001.

The full text of the superintendent's statement to the Board of Education, an executive summary of the capital budget recommendations, and tables identifying the schedule for individual school projects and modernizations affected by the new recommendations are available in a PDF file at the first link below. The second link has information by cluster and other data from the capital budget recommendations.

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