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Published on October 25th, 2011 | by Len Lazarick

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Alcohol tax money goes to districts that supported it

By Megan Poinski
Megan@MarylandReporter.com

It took some Annapolis deal making in order to get the new 3% alcohol tax passed at the tail end of this year’s legislative session, and charges are being levied that politics are being played with where those proceeds are being spent.

Policymakers estimated that the tax would bring in $88 million in its first year. Initially intended to provide funding for people with disabilities, legislation that passed with the new tax directs most of that money – a total of $47.5 million – to school construction projects this fiscal year. The Developmental Disabilities Administration will get $15 million from the tax.

alcohol tax school map

The locations of the schools getting money from the alcohol tax and the support from each district. Click on the map to interact with it.

The alcohol tax itself was controversial, and the bill that directed most of the money to school construction made it more of a hot-button issue. Many members of the General Assembly protested, saying if a new tax should be passed, the funds should go to the part of the population that fought for it in the first place.

Now that funds are being allocated to schools, critics are saying that the money is only going to school buildings in districts where General Assembly members voted for the tax, especially in Howard and Baltimore counties. At last week’s Board of Public Works meeting, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said that the funds went to the districts of tax-supporters.

According to a map created by MarylandReporter.com, schools receiving the funds are mostly in districts that received wide support for the tax.

“No one should vote for a tax and get something in return to reward them for voting that way,” said Sen. Allan Kittleman, R- Carroll and Howard.

How the money gets spent

The money is divvied between counties and regions in the bill.

The largest shares are going to Baltimore City and Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, with each of those districts getting $9 million.

Baltimore County gets $7 million, Anne Arundel County gets $5 million, and Howard County gets $4 million.

The rest of the counties are split into regions, and receive considerably less.

Construction projects must be recommended by districts and approved by the Board of Public Works, which consists of Gov. Martin O’Malley, Treasurer Nancy Kopp, and Comptroller Peter Franchot. The legislation specifies that the funds should be used on projects that benefit older school buildings – especially those that have a high percentage of students receiving free and reduced meals. They also should be geared toward getting rid of temporary classrooms, making buildings more energy efficient, and completed in a year.

Where the money went in Howard County

Several school districts have brought their spending recommendations to the Board of Public Works. So far this month, projects have been approved for Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties.

The five projects that were approved in Howard County – at Wilde Lake Middle, Wilde Lake High, Atholon High, Hammond High and Oakland Mills High — are all in the Columbia area. All of these schools are in state legislative districts 12B and 13, where all legislators voted for the alcohol tax.

Kittleman, who represents District 9, voted against the alcohol tax. While the alcohol tax was being debated, he offered an amendment to direct all of the proceeds to the Developmental Disabilities Administration. Because his amendment was not adopted, he voted no on the bill.

Having a sort of “quid pro quo” – where yes votes trickle down to money for one’s district – is not fair, Kittleman said.

Howard County Public Schools spokeswoman Patti Caplan said that Ray Brown, the district chief operating officer, made the decision that the schools that get the money are in Columbia – and had told the district’s director of facilities to look there.

But, Caplan said, politics were not involved. She said that Columbia schools have the highest percentage of students receiving free and reduced price meals, and the buildings are among the oldest.

“It was totally his decision, looking at the criteria,” she said.

The projects at Atholon and Hammond high schools, which would install artificial turf at their stadiums, have been in the works for years, she added.

Where the money went in Baltimore County

When Kamenetz and Baltimore County Superintendent of Schools Joseph Hairston presented their list of projects to the Board of Public Works last week, Franchot was struck that all of the schools getting work were on the west side of the county.

“There’s some precision associated with that,” Kamenetz responded. “When the General Assembly agreed to create an opportunity for one-time funding using revenues from the alcohol tax, the delegation agreed those districts that supported the funding would be the beneficiaries.”

Kamenetz said that the seven schools that got the funding were selected based on the “hard vote” taken by their representatives, but all of the projects had previously been classified as high priorities.

Two of the schools receiving funds – Randallstown Elementary and Woodlawn High – are in District 10, which got votes from three of its representatives. (The fourth, Del. Emmett Burns, was excused from voting.) The other five schools – Pikesville Middle, Cedarmere Elementary, Franklin High, Chatsworth Elementary and Glyndon Elementary – are in District 11, where all representatives voted for the tax.

Sen. Jim Brochin, D- Baltimore County, represents District 42. His district has plenty of educational facility needs – he said that elementary schools are currently at 140% of their capacity – but they got no funds.

In the General Assembly, Brochin opposed the alcohol tax because he thought the money should go toward the disabled. School construction already has solid funding sources, he said.

“This is a very sophisticated shell game,” Brochin said.

At the beginning of every year, school districts come to Annapolis and plead their construction needs before the Board of Public Works. The state has $250 million for school construction that is given out that way. Kamenetz said that Baltimore County will keep in mind the funds that came to the west side of the county through the alcohol tax when putting together its proposal next year.

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  • Bill Bissenas

    Maryland Democrats will keep taxing us until we stop them. They will find new ways to tax us (millionaires tax, speed camera fines, higher business taxes, etc.), and increase existing taxes (increased sales tax, alcohol tax, mva fees, bridge and road tolls). In order to pass new taxes, the Dems will lie and tell us the taxes will fund certain things but when the taxes start rolling in, the Dems will use the funds for other unrelated things. Then, the Dems will ignore the protests and criticisms of the people, calling us mean and callous for not supporting all the good projects. Then, the Dems will start again with more taxes (Gasoline tax, cigarette tax, other tobacco tax) for all the good that has yet to be done. And like the Borg on Star Trek, they won’t stop until we stop them. It’s nothing personal, they just need your property for ever increasing levels of good that must be done. Cutting spending is not an option because government spending feeds their constituencies and indirectly funds their campaigns.  They won’t stop until we stop them.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder what the correlation is between having the highest # of free or reduced lunch recipients has to do with astroturf athletic fields? Are these kids fed on the lawn? This latest sin tax with the bait & switch payback is not being used for necessary school upgrades or cut programs but as a reward for the politically correct. I can’t believe that in home of civility in MD, these parents can’t pitch in a few bucks more to provide the upgrades! I think our next sin tax should be levied on the Starbucks crowd. 9% tax on all coffee drinks other than a basic cup of java. Joe Six-pack shouldn’t be taxed to provide the goodies for the chosen few. Sarcasm aside, we all knew what would be done with this last tax increase. Just like we know what will happen to all the new taxes & fees that the Democrats have chosen to levy on us all. The revenue will only benefit some, not all.

    • concerned

      no they are just rewarded with more “extras” and allocated more money b/c they are needy schools – this is supposed to help with student achievement.  I would also like to know how astroturf will help with achievement.

  • PARTY

    HEY BILL B…………ON YOUR COMMENTS………..MARYLAND IS MORE LIKE SYRIA ….A ONE PARTY SYSTEM….THANKS TO THE NEW VOTING DISTRICTS…. GUESS ITS OK TO FIX IT SO THERE ISNT EVEN A CHANCE FOR  ANOTHER POLITICAL PARTY. OR OPINION..
    THE LIES ABOUT HOW THE TAX MONEY WILL BE SPENT AND THEN REDIRECTED ALONG LOYAL CLAN VOTING  SOUNDS MORE AND MORE LIKE THE CORRUPT DISFUNCTIONAL GOVERNMENTS OF THE MIDDLE EAST …..NOT LIKE DEMOCRACY EVEN HAS A CHANCE IN THE LAND OF THE FREE.
    GOOD POLITICIANS DONT ALWAYS MAKE GOOD LEADERS FOR A STATE, A COUNTRY ,OUR COUNTRY, IN DIRE NEED OF SOMETHING OTHER THAN BLIND POLITICAL AMBITION. 

    • Bill Bissenas

      The only way things are going to change is for Republicans to win statewide offices. And for that to happen, Repubs will need to win about 30 percent of the black vote.  Repubs are now winning between 5 to 10 percent.  During the last election, Ehrlich won about 54 percent of the white vote but won only about 5 percent of the black vote. The Henson affair is not going to help Repubs win black votes. So in my estimation, it is going to take a lot more taxes, a lot more statism, to convince significant numbers of blacks to vote for Repubs. Afterall, for many blacks, the Repubs represent an existential threat to their civil rights.  That attitude won’t change easily.  The Dems are in the process of consolidating power and further marginalizing any and all opposition.  In other words folks, it’s going to get a lot worse in Maryland before it gets better.

      • MrGiordano

        You are certainly spot on Bill in your assessment, however Republicans aren’t the future of breaking up the Democratic monopoly we currently see in Maryland, Independents are – in my humble opinion! The fastest growing 3rd party that outnumbers Republicans in Montgomery Couty, PG County and Baltimore City, will soon its conservative #s rise, thus it should be embraced by the GOP and used to help take down the Liberal “Progressive Party” we see as a fraud! Take for instance Senator C. Anthony Muse, A PG County Democraitc defector who is now standing in opposition to the Party, for is own personal electoral gain of course, yet it is those Independent minded Dems we can see come over and vote for Independents in the General Elections, along with third party allies such as Green Party, Libertarian Party and others, and if they are smart Republicans as well! This NEW surgence of political disdain by the people, will lead to the insurgence of a new breed of politicos, which allowing the Dems to idiotically ignore the people as they have recently with tax hikes, redistricting maps ignoring the majority of their Party, i.e. blacks and more; will only lend support to the growing home-grown Independent Movement started in Baltimore City known as IMPAC. Get In On It!!?

      • Anonymous

        The only way things will change is if primaries are open to Independents which will NEVER happen given the Dems stranglehold. Before I saw the light more than 10 years ago, I was a Dem. Not now, especially when the parties expect blind loyalty with minimal input from voters. The political culture of corruption is alive & thriving in MD. 

  • acybay

    Free and Reduced schools always get more money, better technology, etc.  at least in Baltimore County.  Schools that are not title one struggle to buy bulbs for projectors while Title 1 schools are awarded with promethian (spelling?) boards.  The money should be evenly disbursed and the parents, teachers, and students should vote on where the money should go and what it should be spent on, not the higher ups in education and the politicians.  We all know that they scratch each other’s backs.  And by the way, the “extra” stuff these title 1 schools get is supposed to help with student achievement.  Take a look at the MSA scores for those schools and their behavior issues, then judge for yourself if these “extras” have helped?  How does new turf help with student achievement or new lighting in the auditorium?  Check out some of the luxury items at schools like Chesapeake HS regarding technology and ask how much was spent from our tax dollars.  Are those luxuries as important as creating comfortable environments for our children to work in?

  • taxpayer

    Free and Reduced schools always get more money, better technology, etc.  at least in Baltimore County.  Schools that are not title one struggle to buy bulbs for projectors while Title 1 schools are awarded with promethian (spelling?) boards.  The money should be evenly disbursed and the parents, teachers, and students should vote on where the money should go and what it should be spent on, not the higher ups in education and the politicians.  We all know that they scratch each other’s backs.  And by the way, the “extra” stuff these title 1 schools get is supposed to help with student achievement.  Take a look at the MSA scores for those schools and their behavior issues, then judge for yourself if these “extras” have helped?  How does new turf help with student achievement or new lighting in the auditorium?  Check out some of the luxury items at schools like Chesapeake HS regarding technology and ask how much was spent from our tax dollars.  Are those luxuries as important as creating comfortable environments for our children to work in?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PYV4AE4O3HZYEQYWPZK64ZCDNU DennisP

    I would like to see a map reflecting how much tax was collected from each district.

    • Anonymous

      That could be really interesting. I’ll keep an eye out for what kind of figures they release on alcohol tax collection in the coming months. Thanks for the suggestion!
      –Megan Poinski

  • Youarealllosers

    this is stupid!

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