October 6, 2011

$18 million in alcohol tax funds goes to schools

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By Megan Poinski
Megan@MarylandReporter.com

The Board of Public Works awarded $18 million in grants coming from the new 3% alcohol sales tax for school construction projects in Howard, Montgomery, and Anne Arundel counties.

drill and tools

Photo by Will Engelmann

Most of the revenues from the new tax, which was passed by the General Assembly earlier this year and has been collected since July, are earmarked for educational projects. The tax added on top of the 6% sales tax is expected to collect $88 million in revenues – more than $72 million of which are for schools in its first year. About $15 million is for the Developmental Disabilities Administration.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, also chairman of the Board of Public Works, was proud that Maryland is able to invest in education during the current economy.

“While other states are doing less in the recession, we are doing more,” O’Malley said.

The district officials who spoke at the meeting all talked about their planned projects, but were unable to tell O’Malley how many jobs they would create.

O’Malley and the other members of the Board of Public Works, Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot, unanimously approved the grants on Wednesday.

Montgomery County got the largest chunk of money in Wednesday’s grants, receiving a total of $9 million. Here’s where the funds are going:

  • $1,428,000 to go toward the Cabin John Middle School replacement project.
  • $1,058,420 to go toward the Cannon Road Elementary School replacement project.
  • $5,176,000 to go toward the Farmland Elementary School replacement project.
  • $1,337,580 to go toward the Garrett Park Elementary School replacement project.

James Song, director of facilities management for Montgomery County Public Schools, said that this money is helpful, but the school district desperately needs more funding for facilities. The district is the state’s largest, with 200 separate schools and a rapidly growing population. In the last year, Song said, the student population went up by about 8,600.  Growth of 10,000 more students is anticipated over the next five years.

“That’s like a whole high school each year,” Song said.

Anne Arundel County is getting $5 million, which will be used to enhance performing and visual arts facilities at Annapolis High School, said Lisa Seaman-Crawford, acting director of facilities for the school district. The high school will be getting appropriate rooms for performing arts, including dance and recording studios, and will become home to a new magnet program for the arts.

Howard County is getting $4 million for the following projects.

  • $2 million to replace the grass in the Atholton and Hammond high school stadiums with artificial turf.
  • $1 million to replace lockers and security systems, as well as upgrade sports facilities, at Oakland Mills High School.
  • $750,000 to rehabilitate the physical education facilities at Wilde Lake High School and reconfigure some rooms.
  • $250,000 to upgrade casework in art, band and chorus rooms at Wilde Lake Middle School.

Howard County School Facilities Director Wayne Crosby said that the artificial turf will make the stadiums more resilient so members of the community can use the football fields. They are currently reserved for high school sports games to maintain the grass.

  • Bellefontegirl47

    I’m shocked! These are three of the wealthiest counties in the state with state-of-the-art educational facilities. Why didn’t much of this go to improving schools in Baltimore City?? I’m a resident of Howard County but obviously none of the $4.0 million will improve the quality of education as it would if applied to Baltimore City. 

  • NoNonsenze

    I saw several schools in Baltimore City – they were neat and clean and the children were well behaved.  The problem with public education in Baltimore (and I am sure many other pllaces) is not with the school facilities.  Most certainly much of the blame lies with the parents not demaning more of their children.  In some cases the quality of the teachers leaves someathing to be desired.

    The physical facilities, as long as they meet some kind of standard, are not a major factor.  Baltimore built a new technical high school a fewyears ago — new, shiny and with all the modern technology included.  The students still are not learning satisfacorily.

  • Northbaltimore

    Hey NoNonsenze:  Concentrated poverty (a result white middle class flight over decades)  is a big reason why kids in Baltimore are not performing as well as their peers in Montgomery.  Read Antero Pietila’s book “Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City” for exhaustive and fascinating detail.  I am in 8 Baltimore public schools regularly and the facilities are nowhere near what Mont. Co facilities are like in terms of quality (and facilities, studies show, impact achievement).  Montgomery County has done a great job building a quality school system – because it has a deep tax base.  Baltimore’s poverty rate just does not allow this city to catch up without additional investment.  See http://www.transformbaltimore.org for details of how this might be done.  We need to look at fairly distrributing dollars statewide, but also other measures like dedicated revenue for school construction and the innovative Greenville financing model.