The following letter from Howard County Executive Calvin Ball to Members of the Board of Education on December 17th:

Dear Members of the Board of Education (BOE): 

With the Board scheduled to discuss the Talbott Springs Elementary School, Hammond High School, and High School 13 projects tonight, I am writing to reiterate the County’s continuing and full support for all three of those projects moving forward, without further delays.  Those three communities have waited far too long and, given the desperate need for current and future capacity, we need to make them a priority. In order to keep these three projects moving, a joint effort and shared focused commitment from the County, the State and the BOE is required.

County Commitment: As I indicated in my letter to the Board on November 27th, an enhanced County funding to HCPSS capital in FY21 and beyond is expected to provide sufficient local match to keep all three priority projects on schedule. Total County funding of $50-$54 million is projected to be available for the HCPSS CIP for each of the next five years, largely thanks to the newly passed CB42 , which was passed after our August discussions, through collaboration between the County Executive’s Office and the County Council to increase the school facilities surcharge fee. As demonstrated in the table below, this amount is more than sufficient to provide the $28-36 million in local funding needed for the three projects per year based on HCPSS projections to keep all three priority projects on schedule, while still allowing for a reasonable support to all other projects, primarily systemic renovation, in the next several years with assumed funding in line with the HCPSS request for FY21 and historical average ($19~$21 million).

State Commitment: We are working diligently with the Governor, Senate President, Speaker of the House and our Howard County Delegation to push for increased funding for HCPSS capital projects and provide needed funding to keep all three priority projects moving. Now is the time to continue and, frankly, increase our joint efforts to request needed State funding to the three projects, rather than dropping the momentum early because requested State funding level has been dropping since FY 2017 and is not immediately approved. State funding, which supports up to 55% of construction cost of qualified HCPSS capital projects, is critical and we won’t get what we don’t ask for. We share the concern about the declining State funding in recent years (as shown in the graph below). As a County with one of the highest student enrollment growth in the State and consistently one of the highest local taxation efforts to support our school system’s capital improvement projects, we need and deserve more State aid for our school capital projects. The recent statements from both the Governor and State legislators on providing enhanced funding to local school system capital projects in FY 2021 and beyond is encouraging.

BOE Commitment: To keep all three priority projects moving on schedule, the BOE must treat them as the Board’s top priorities. In the HCPSS capital budget scenario provided by the HCPSS on December 5th at the Council/BOE joint meeting, HCPSS assumed a significant enhancement (58~82% growth) in other school projects including systemic renovation and appeared to put those at a higher priority than both Talbott Spring ES Replacements and Hammond High School Renovation/Addition. While all needs might be justified, all needs are not equal. As a separate government entity, the Board has the authority to make its own prioritization. As County Executive, I urge the board to listen to our constituents’ desire and make adequate internal prioritization based on the community’s priorities. 

We look forward to continuing discussions and to a collaborative process as we work together to develop the FY2021 County and HCPSS CIP.  Thank you for your attention to this matter. 

Calvin Ball

County Executive

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Here is that letter shared with Scot E’s Blog: READ HERE

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Will the board mention this letter during the meeting tonight? Stay tuned…it is coming up soon (Item H on the agenda).

Scott E