ANNAPOLIS – The three small counties of Southern Maryland battled more populous counties in the north and east for school construction money Wednesday, relying on frugality instead of showy demonstrations to make their case to the Board of Public Works.
Montgomery County brought in students and a big delegation to bolster its request for $57 million. Prince George’s County leaders handed out heart-shaped squeeze toys to the three members of the panel to curry favor for its $25 million request.
Amid those displays, came Southern Maryland’s simple appeal for an estimated $12 million.
“Let us pray that after (the big counties’) demonstration, there’s a little bit of money left over for Southern Maryland,” said Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who with Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Richard N. Dixon comprises the board.
All but four counties appealed the amounts they received from Glendening’s $250 million school construction budget. The Interagency Committee on School Construction Funding approved $187.67 million for distribution to the 23 counties, but delegates, senators, school board officials and superintendents crowded into the Governor’s Reception Room in the Statehouse to make their plea to the board for $137 million more.
Here’s what the Southern Maryland counties requested:
— Calvert County was approved for $5.5 million.
The county asked for another $1.5 million to
complete construction of Mill Creek Middle
School within the next year and $299,000 for a
heating and cooling system replacement at
—- — Charles County asked for another $3.4
million after receiving $6.9 million to
fund renovations and additions to Lackey
High School, J.P. Ryon Elementary School
and William B. Wade Elementary School.
The money will also go toward temporary
classrooms for Ryon and Wade during
renovations and for Westlake and Maurice
J. McDonough high schools to handle
— St. Mary’s County received $9.5 million. The
county appealed for $7.1 million more for
construction at Esperanza Middle School and
Leonardtown High School.
Delegate George W. Owings III, D-Calvert, said representatives would not have appeared before the board to ask for more if the region didn’t need it. To demonstrate his county’s frugality, he put three washers on the table beside him. The rings, he said, went unused in the construction of Windy Hill Middle School.
“We don’t waste things,” he said. “Our needs are just as great as anyone else’s. It’s because of the relationship between the county and the state we’ve been able to stay ahead of the curve.”
Calvert County, population about 70,000, is the fastest growing county in the state, although it remains the smallest.
“It’s very difficult for a growing county like Calvert to build the schools fast enough,” said Delegate Anthony J. O’Donnell, R-Calvert. “Essentially, the day we build a school, it’s full. I wish there was a way we could be a little more proactive.”
Charles County, meanwhile, badly needs the temporary classrooms, said Delegate Samuel L. Linton, D-Charles, yet he said he sensed some hesitation from the board on approving the delegation’s request for more than 30 of them.
“The children have a better opportunity for education if the facilities are adequate,” Linton said. “They don’t have to worry about, ` Where’s my room?’ or `Where am I going to go?'”
The board’s hesitation, he said, was because the state doesn’t have enough such classrooms in inventory to meet the demand.
“We needed so many for the renovations, there weren’t enough in the state inventory,” he said.
The county is doing its share in footing the bill for educating its children, said Linton. The cost of educating one child in Charles County is $6,005 for one year, 55 percent of which is paid for out of county funds. Forty-three percent is paid for by the state, and the remaining two percent is taken out of federal funds.
“We think (the state-county ratio) should be 50- 50,” Linton said. “We’re trying to get the state’s portion up and the county’s down.”
The Southern Maryland delegation is optimistic about the appeal outcome.
“We feel like we’ve been very supportive of the governor’s past initiatives,” said Delegate Van T. Mitchell, D-Charles, the delegation chairman. “This is not unusual to have these types of appeals. We certainly hope that ours will be 100 percent funded.”
St. Mary’s is experiencing a population boom, too, said Delegate John F. Slade III, D-St. Mary’s. The increase is due in part to Navy consolidation of operations on the Patuxent River, which created 5,000 new jobs.