The Board of the Garrett County Commissioners provided a “County Update” to the Garrett County Chamber Business Before Hours event that was held on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
Commissioner Paul Edwards addressed the attendees first and set the stage for the broad and, admittedly, limited topics to cover in the allotted time. These topics to review during the session were the county’s:
- COVID-19 response
- public schools funding
- government budget
- economic development
- rural broadband expansion efforts
Commissioner Edwards praised the Garrett County Health Department and Bob Stephens, Chief Health Officer, for their “outstanding job” managing the Garrett County response to COVID-19.
He noted that the Garrett County Government continued to provide all County services, without interruption, throughout the pandemic.
Each County office remains open and offers in-person meetings and services.
Garrett County Public Schools
Regarding funding for the Garrett County Public Schools, Commissioner Edwards again reviewed the term “unfunded mandate”. Unfunded mandates are certain actions or programs required by, and being directed by, the State with no corresponding State funding of said requirement.
Despite the school system’s enrollment declining, the County was required to fund an additional $704,269 for this fiscal year per the State Board of Education.
For the 2021/2022 fiscal year, education is 42% of the County’s entire budget at $35,640,320 and it is expected that this figure will continue to increase year over year as further state mandates loom on the horizon.
As previously reported, the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education committee (Kirwan Commission) was a state-assembled 26-member team to ensure Maryland Public Schools “meet the challenges of a changing global economy”.
A bill was proposed by this committee in 2020, generally
-extend pre-k to 4-year-olds and certain 3-year-olds
-increase teacher standards and salaries
-revamp high school curriculum to prepare college and career-ready students
-provide increased support for special education and low-income students
-create an accountability program to ensure educational spending is appropriate
This bill was vetoed by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan; however, when the General Assembly legislature reconvened in January of this year, the veto was overturned.
The details of how the approved bill will impact Garrett County are still being finalized but, Commissioner Edwards mentioned the school construction formula is tied to the Kirwan funding bill. Under this new bill, when approved, Garrett County will pay just 11% of the capital construction costs and the State will pay 89%. We know that this formula will be reevaluated by the State so there may be a short window of opportunity for capital projects.
Overall, the Board feels that Kirwan Commission recommendations will be positive adjustments to the structure of our school system but the issue will be how to accommodate the significant local cost.
“There are good things happening in the county but we will all certainly be faced with some challenges in the future,” said Commissioner Paul Edwards.
Additional information can be found on the Garrett County Government website at www.GarrettCounty.org or by calling 301-334-1920.