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Commissioners Ask Public School Board for Collaboration

Last Updated on Nov 21, 2022 at 1:41pm | Communications Office
Teamwork is Key to Successful Capital Improvement Plan Funding
Open dialog was had between the Board of Education (BOE) and the Board of Garrett County Commissioners at a public work session held Wednesday November 9, 2022 at the Courthouse.
The primary agenda item was an update from the Board of Education on their Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Barbara Baker, Garrett County Public Schools Superintendent, led the discussion by reviewing factors that contribute to the specific CIP plan that is mapped out for fiscal year 2023 through 2029.
Overall, the public school system will continue to be squeezed with the new requirements of The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Act (increasing costs) and declining system-wide enrollment (decreasing potential revenue).
Also, the adoption of the Built to Learn Act and accountability changes at the Interagency Commission of School Construction can impact state and local shares of capital improvements.
In whole, through fiscal year 2029, the BOE’s CIP outlines a total local share of $29,125,009.
“We simply cannot fund the entirety of the capital request as presented. These funds are in addition to the mandated operating funds from the county,” said Board of County Commissioners Chairman Paul Edwards. “This capital request alone, and the associated debt service, would be at least asking for a 5% increase in taxes.”
A realignment project request is the first part of the overall CIP, proposed by the Board of Education, in the Southern end of the County.
Currently pending approval by the Maryland State Interagency Commission of School Construction (IAC), the Commissioners did offer their support for this element of the CIP.
“We understand where you are coming from with this request, and we support your efforts. You have our word that the Commissioners will support a [realignment] project with an estimated total of $13.5 million,” said Commissioner Edwards.
This project would modernize the current Southern Middle School facility to become a PreKindergarten to Sixth grade facility and the current Southern High School would become a Seventh to Twelfth grade facility. Ultimately, Broad Ford Elementary School would be demolished.
Of the $13.5 million project total, $1.4 million would make improvements to Southern High School and a $12.2 million investment would update Southern Middle School building and grounds.
The realignment comes as a result of a utilization study that found Broad Ford Elementary, built in 1976, had a utilization rate of 76.3%. While Southern High School, built in 1952 and with a full modernization update in 1991, is under capacity at 43.2%.
“We must work together,” Commissioner Jim Hinebaugh said. “This CIP impacts us all and, while I won’t be serving on this board in a few weeks, the Boards must come to an agreement together. That’s the only way it’s going to work.”
The “other” capital and “contingent” proposed projects in the CIP do not currently have a commitment of support from the Commissioners.
The school board is a separately elected board from the Garrett County Commissioners. The Commissioners have no role in creating any capital plans but, rather, only approving funding distributions based on the data and planning provided by the Board of Education.
It is a unique relationship where the Board of Education is responsible for instruction while the Commissioners are responsible for much of the funding. A typical allocation to the Board of Education is approximately 34% of the overall County budget.
The deadline to present a capital funding commitment to the State of Maryland is December 3. A letter of support from the Commissioners for the realignment project is expected to be finalized by that date.