WASHINGTON POST: As local spending required by Maryland’s landmark education law climbs, Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) is asking state legislators for more discretion over how the county pays for schools.
Citing financial pressure, Alsobrooks is taking aim at a law that funnels most money generated by the local telecommunications and energy taxes to county schools under rules set long before the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future plan — and its mandates — took effect.
“We need flexibility, to plan for the future of our county,” Alsobrooks said at a virtual hearing last Friday with the Prince George’s delegation, as she lobbied for two bills that would roll back the earmarks. She pledged to continue supporting the school system, including with money for the next phase of a public-private effort to build schools.
A state House committee held a hearing on the bills Wednesday. The school board opposes the change.
In a letter to the chair of the Prince George’s delegation in the state House, school board members wrote that the taxes remain “a critical source of revenue” to fund the budget requirements for school programs and facilities.
“It is a key contributor to advancing our educational goals, improving school infrastructure, providing mental and special needs support, and creating additional opportunities for students in Prince George’s County,” school board members wrote.
Fiscal notes analyzing the telecommunications and energy and fuel tax bills said using the payments from the levies “may result in a reduction in county funding for the local school system.”
County and school board leaders have been at odds in recent weeks over how best to meet the schools’ mounting needs during a tight budget year. A county committee warned elected officials last month to slash spending and safeguard reserves in anticipation of rising budget shortfalls it projected could balloon to $407 million within five fiscal years.