Montgomery County officials couldn’t get this year’s Maryland General Assembly to support a large construction funding bill for MCPS, but County Executive Isiah Leggett on Tuesday did report some positive news.
The state’s Interagency Committee on School Construction recommended giving Montgomery County $5 million more in school construction funding than the $35 million Leggett thought it would — meaning the County Council has a bit more flexibility when it comes to final decisions on the six-year capital budget for school facilities.
Still, without the state legislation county lawmakers pushed for in Annapolis this year, there was a roughly $235 million gap between the school system’s requested capital budget and what the county can pay for.
That will likely mean one-year delays for the design process in a number of school addition projects, according to a MCPS-prepared “Affordability Scenario.”
The failure of the state funding bill has earned Leggett criticism from his two opponents in June’s Democratic primary.
In a March debate in Bethesda, opponent Doug Duncan said Leggett was taken advantage of by state leaders in last year’s General Assembly, pointing to the $600 million Baltimore City got for school construction that Leggett and other county leaders supported.
A similar bill to help Montgomery County’s school overcrowding problem never materialized this year, though county lawmakers hope to succeed in the effort next year.
In his memo to Council President Craig Rice on Tuesday, Leggett was quick to point out that he has recommended a record 1.533 billion to school construction in his capital budget. He also said he’s gotten more back from the state in terms of school construction funding than the county did in the eight years before him, when Duncan was county executive.
“Last year, Montgomery County received about $35.7 million in State school construction dollars, so this year’s total is nearly $5 million more. Over the past eight years, the County will have received over $300 million in State school construction funding – despite the Great Recession and fiscal difficulties – compared with about $250 million in the eight years before I assumed office,” Leggett wrote.