Arundel Supt. and County Exec spar over budget
Here we go again. It looks as if officials with the Anne Arundel county government and school system are getting ready to spar again over education spending. Arundel Supt. Kevin M. Maxwell presented last week a $969 million budget that seeks $100 million more than the district received last year. (See my article last Friday for details.)
That's not good news for County Exec. John R. Leopold, who says a sluggish housing market and decreased state aid will make it impossible for him to afford the schools' request. Maxwell said he has worked to be fiscally responsible, whittling down 90 requests from department heads to 28, but he said the requests are far less than the amount needed for schools. "Excellence costs money," Maxwell told the school board last week. But Leopold countered that the schools must develop a budget "within the parameters of fiscal reality" and recognize that "the county does not print money."
Last year, school officials bracing for steep cuts to their budget didn't attend the unveiling of Leopold's budget. Instead, they convened their own news conference the same day. This year, with rhetoric already heating up, the county’s taxpayers might see some of the same posturing.
Conflicts over budgets are nothing new in local government. However in Maryland, the infighting can be especially heated because it's one of nine states that doesn’t grant its school districts the authority to levy taxes and instead relies on county governments for funding. When it works well, Maryland's system allows county governments to act as a check and balance for school systems, reducing waste and cementing common priorities. When it doesn't work well, school officials feel marginalized in a process where they feel they ought to be considered experts.
Perhaps, Maryland should consider doing what 34 other states already are: allow school boards to levy property or income taxes to fund schools within parameters set by state law or referendum.
What are your thoughts about the way schools are funded? Is it time for the state to consider a new paradigm in the way it funds schools?