ANNAPOLIS – The biggest school construction budget in more than 20 years was on the table, but Eastern Shore officials came to Annapolis Thursday with only moderate goals.
While officials from the rest of the state pleaded with the Maryland Board of Public Works for more school construction funds, officials from the Eastern Shore asked for relatively small amounts.
Four shore counties — Kent, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s and Somerset — did not even bother to ask for more school funding yesterday.
Garrett County, in far Western Maryland, was the only other jurisdiction that did not ask for more money Thursday.
“The Eastern Shore normally has very low requests,” said Yale Stenzler, executive director for the Interagency Committee on School Construction. The committee evaluates school construction requests and makes recommendations to the board.
“All these programs have been taken care of already, so there isn’t any need to appeal,” Stenzler said.
Stenzler’s committee recommended that shore counties receive $18.3 million for school construction and renovations this year, out of a total request of $32.9 million.
Eastern Shore officials who appeared before the board yesterday were asking for another $8.7 million. By comparison, requests Thursday from Prince George’s, Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties alone totaled $121.5 million.
Baltimore County’s request for nearly $18.4 million extra was almost $10 million more than the requests of all nine Eastern Shore counties put together.
“It’s really only a small amount,” said Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Dorchester. “I look at counties like Baltimore and I think that they are asking for every single appeal.”
Officials from Caroline, Cecil, Worcester and Wicomico counties did ask for a little more, money they said is needed to renovate old schools. None of those four counties plans to build schools this year.
“Our requests match with the governor’s desires to renovate and modernize our schools,” said Sen. Donald Fry, D-Harford, whose district includes Cecil County.
“It’s really a modest request,” he said, of Cecil County’s plea Thursday for an additional $790,000.
“The projects that we submitted have been approved and are already in the process (of being funded),” said Faye Miller, assistant superintendent for Kent County.
The request for more funds has been driven this year by the $222 million that Gov. Parris Glendening has pledged for school construction. If his plan is fully funded, he said, it would allow the state to fund about two-thirds of all school requests.
But Glendening, who sits on the Board of Public Works, repeatedly told legislators that the only way most of those projects can be funded is if his proposed budget is passed without amendments.
“We have enough money to grant only 67 percent of requests,” Glendening said. “The reality is that we can’t cut that $222 million.”
He sought assurances that lawmakers would support his budget, which angered some Republican legislators.
“I’ve been here for three governors … and I have never really experienced anything like this before,” Colburn said.
While Colburn said he supports the proposed $222 million allocation for school construction, he said he could not ensure his support of Glendening’s budget.
“I’m not willing to trade my beliefs for that,” he said.