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Superintendent: Leopold's Proposed Schools Budget 'Breaks the Law'

The primary disagreement is whether the county met Maintenance of Effort (MOE) requirements in 2012 and how those numbers impact fiscal year 2013.

County Executive John R. Leopold’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 is more than $21 million less than the amount requested by Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS).

Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell recommended a but Leopold appropriated $965 million for the school system, asking for $572.5 million from the county.

Leopold, who released the budget Monday, adopted Maxwell’s recommendations for 62 new teaching positions and several school construction projects including funding the replacement of Severna Park High. Patch previously reported that Maxwell stated that about $4 million in “salary savings from all employee groups” will cover the funding of the .

The county executive’s budget does not allow for teacher salary increases, meaning AACPS and teacher unions will need to renegotiate contracts. 

AACPS Chief Operating Officer Alex Szachnowicz said the contracts have “if funded” clauses and because the county did not allocate money for the salary increases, the school system did not violate contract agreements to raise compensation.

Szachnowicz said the biggest conflict between the two recommended budgets lies in funding requirements for Maintenance of Effort (MOE)—the minimum sum of money per-student allotted by the county in order to keep school funding stable.

Maxwell and other school officials claim that Leopold’s recommended budget is $12 million short of its MOE requirements.

“It is the law to fund MOE. It was last year and he broke the law," Maxwell said about the county executive. "It is the law this year and he is breaking the law again. These aren’t opinions we’re talking about here. These are legal requirements that he is failing to meet.”

The primary disagreement is whether the county met MOE requirements in 2012 and how those numbers impact fiscal year 2013. Leopold’s office used debt service to calculate the MOE numbers for fiscal year 2012, but not fiscal year 2013.

“We believe we followed the rules and we met the MOE in 2012,” said John Hammond, the county's chief administrative officer and former budget officer.

Hammond said the Maryland Attorney General told them that the use of debt service was legal in 2012. However, according to a new bill passed last week by the Maryland General Assembly, debt service has been disallowed for use when calculating MOE requirements.

AACPS spokesman Bob Mosier said the issue is no longer the use of debt service by the county, but the $12 million missing from last year’s operating budget.

“They underfunded us by $12 million in 2012 and they did it against this year,” Mosier said. “The issue is they’re using that number they gave us in 2012, and the number they gave us last year is $12 million less than the requirement.”

Szachnowicz agreed that the MOE numbers from 2012 were "faulty."

"To use that as the launch point for 2013, the budget was artificially lower by that amount of money,” Szachnowicz said.

School officials also pointed out Leopold’s exclusion of three construction projects already approved for funding by the state government.

On April 2, the county executive wrote a letter to David Lever, executive director of Maryland’s Interagency Committee on School Construction, that said, “I am aware of no instance where the county has not supported a board of education project that has been approved for funding by the state.”

According to Maxwell, the county executive contradicted that very claim by “defunding” three projects in the capital budget.

Construction for a new gym at Maryland City and Waugh Chapel elementary schools and additional classrooms at Crofton Middle were already approved for state government funding but, in Leopold’s budget, the county’s contributions to the projects were eliminated.

The superintendent said the exclusion likely sends a negative message to the state government, scheduled to distribute a remaining $51 million for school construction projects throughout Maryland on April 24.

“I won’t be at all surprised to see the state factor into those allocations the fact that Anne Arundel is not meeting its commitment to three projects that were already approved by the state,” Maxwell said. 

Crofton, Rolling Knolls, Benfield and West Annapolis elementary school parents hoping to see the start of the renovation or construction process in 2013 will be disappointed to learn Leopold’s budget pushes back those projects until 2016 and 2017. Any school previously expecting the process to start in 2016 or later has been pushed back indefinitely, Szachnowicz said.

More than 76,000 students are enrolled in county schools—the most ever, according to AACPS.

“We’re one of the few school districts in the state of Maryland who is operating with more kids and less operating money this year,” Maxwell said.

Listed below is a summary of approved budget items in both the operating and capital budgets proposed by Leopold:

  • Sixty-two new teaching positions throughout the county.
  • Funding for the new visual and performing arts school in Annapolis.
  • Increased enrollment for addition grades at charter schools.
  • Increased riders, routes and fuel for school transportation.
  • Security-related upgrades, including new cameras, fences and key cards at various schools.
  • The addition of all-day pre-Kindergarten and kindergarten classes.
  • Replacing old school buses.
  • Construction at Lothian Elementary.
  • Construction at Mills-Parole Elementary.
  • Replacing Severna Park High.
McGibblets April 22, 2012 at 07:59 PM
You're absolutely right CJ. You can have AA county or all of MD for that matter, my time here has come....
Amy Leahy April 23, 2012 at 11:34 AM
The school board is a creature of state law in the education article of the Annotated Code of Maryland.
Amy Leahy April 23, 2012 at 11:35 AM
CJ, this is why we need an elected board with separate taxing authority. Then there is no question of who is responsible for what.
Amy Leahy April 23, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Thanks for the technical correction, Bob. You're right. Obviously the school system is a state agency principally funded by the county taxpayers, much like the Health Department, which we all know is referred to as a county department. The real point of my comment was that the Board of Education, just like county departments must come to the County Executive and County Council to request its funding. The big difference between the BoE and the county departments is that the County Council can vote to INCREASE its funding, where it has no such power over any other county agency or department or whatever one chooses to refer to it as.
rob May 15, 2012 at 08:38 PM
separate school tax? that doesn't work either! Pa. does that now and they have astro turf on the field. a house assessed at $125,000 pays $745 property-$2200 school-and they don't have trash pick-up! you can burn everything and poison the air! we need to make schools about learning only! you want sports-hire your own coach! why should everyone pay for a few? so they can be a football player and make millions! we need to really teach and stop throwing money away! children in middle school can't even count their change without a machine! what are we paying for? wake up and look around at the real world and the kids that have made it through the system!

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