I thought I would start my first post of 2020 with a post that may be a little controversial…what are the priorities of our county in difficult budget years?

Look…at this point most people (especially those in District 3 in Howard County) know that renovations are VERY needed at Hammond High School.

The school system has told us that they need significant funding to move forward with the renovations needed at Hammond High. The school system did a whole presentation about it and other needed capital items in December: How much capital money does Howard County normally give the school system and what does that mean for Talbott Springs and Hammond

Now look…I at times do not believe the numbers presented from our school system…because they seem to change regularly and the numbers presented to the public (and at times to the board) seem to be wrong. It is VERY frustrating to watch the data presented and then see it change.

Let me give you my example…here is what HoCoBOE member Chao Wu posted recently: FY 2021 Capital Budget Program FY 2022‐2026 & Long‐Range Master Plan FY 2021‐2030. That document shows “systemic renovations” dropped to the $13+ million number that I noted above in the previous article…and yet…it also shows budgeted projects not noted in previous discussion…so no actual drop in the numbers. How does that happen? How are the $7 million dollars not even mentioned back on December 5th (look back at the documents provided to the HoCoBOE and the public)? How can we believe the numbers the school system provides to the public? Seriously why is no one calling this out? Look…if I am wrong…tell me in the comments.

Now on to the point of this post…is a pool in Laurel more important than needed renovations at one of our high schools? That is a question that our County Executive and our County Council will have to answer this year.

Looking at the FY2020 Capital Budget…this project exists: C0358 – FY2019 NORTH LAUREL COMMUNITY POOL. That project in the FY2020 budget is expected to receive $13.5 million dollars in FY2021. I want that pool in Laurel…but is it more important than needed renovations at Hammond High School? I do not think so…but that is just my opinion.

Will that money pay for all of the Hammond needs…no…but it might be a step in the right direction.

There is another project the County Executive and the County Council should review… M0539 – FY2020 MATHEMATICS AND ATHLETICS COMPLEX…this project has $7.3 million in bonds (and another $7.3 million in grants) that might be able to be refocused (at least the bond money) on the school system. Is this a good initiative…sure…but more important that needed renovations at Hammond…no (again…just my opinion).

At the end of the day…budgets are about priorities…what are the priorities of our county and our elected officials? We will find out soon.

Why do I think we need strong representation from District 3 on the Howard County Board of Education? This is it…someone from this district should be advocating for our local schools in this district. Also…where is our other locally elected officials (specifically Howard County Council Member from District 3 Christiana Mercer Rigby) on this topic. I look forward to hearing from them…hopefully sooner this year rather than later.

Happy new year.

Scott E

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for your article regarding the Hammond Renovations and other District 3 budget items. I wanted to reach out on behalf of Councilwoman Rigby and share some of our work advocating for the Hammond High Renovation/Addition over the last year.

    As you know, the Hammond High School Renovation/Addition is one of our top priorities in the Capital Budget. Christiana was pleased that Hammond received $12.5 million in funding in the FY20 budget cycle, and she is continuing to advocate that it receives the funding it needs to stay on track moving forward. She has voiced her support for Hammond funding in every Council meeting regarding the Capital Budget, and she has privately advocated for this project’s funding to the County Executive, Board of Education, and Superintendent numerous times.

    Additionally, Councilwoman Rigby worked throughout the year to develop, write, and pass a significant increase to the school facilities surcharge (CB42-2019) so that more school construction funds are available for Hammond and school construction in general. This was the most significant piece of school construction legislation that the County Council has undertaken in years, and Councilwoman Rigby’s intention is for the resulting new revenue to help support the Hammond High project on its current timeline. In September, Christiana also wrote a letter to Board of Education requesting that they keep Hammond funding in their FY21 Budget and Long Range Master Plan as the County Council continued work on the school surcharge legislation.

    As we head into 2020, our office will continue to advocate fiercely for progress and funding for the Hammond High Renovation/Addition in any and every way possible. While we understand that this advocacy does not always appear in public or on social media, I can assure you that Hammond has been and continues to be one of our top priorities. As a Hammond High graduate, host parent to a Hammond High foreign exchange student in 2015, and parent whose children may attend Hammond in the future, Councilwoman Rigby fully understands the conditions at Hammond and is committed to advocating for this renovation/addition as soon as possible.

    Councilwoman Rigby also agrees that representation for District 3 will be vitally important on the Board of Education, especially considering that no current Board Members live east of Route 29. Whether we are talking about the East Columbia 50+ Center, the North Laurel Community Pool, or the Hammond High Renovation/Addition, our region of the County has consistently had funding delayed or deferred for projects that are important to District 3.

  2. Just answer the question
    “is a pool in Laurel more important than needed renovations at one of our high schools?”

    Typical BS spin. I dont know why you try so hard to include these politicians’, when its clear they are in office and often on the other side of the equation and the cause of these problems.

    Notice she didnt even try to answer the tough question.

    In a world with finite resources, one has to choose what to spend, unless she intends to have both and just pass the buck on to over-taxed hoco residents.

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