ANNAPOLIS – Montgomery County went to the opening day of the Maryland General Assembly Wednesday gunning for its share of the expected $925 million surplus in the state budget, specifically $50 million for school construction.
The money will help fund modernization of some schools, help build one new school and a replacement school and provide Internet access. Delegate Kumar Barve, a Democrat and chairman of the House delegation, said the projects will help cope with increased enrollment in the schools and will help attract new residents.
“We want the high-tech companies to come to the county and to put their kids in our schools,” Barve said.
The county’s bargaining power was strengthened by the appointment of Sen. Ida Ruben to the position of president pro tem at this morning’s opening of the General Assembly. Ruben said she hoped her new position would enhance the county’s chances of receiving its requests.
It has, said Sen. Jean Roesser, a Republican member of the delegation.
“We strengthened our power,” she said.
Such power will be needed to compete with other counties also seeking their cut of the state surplus, most of it for school budgets.
Montgomery County student enrollment increased by 2.9 percent this year, the third largest increase for the county in 15 years. According to Rich Madaleno, a lobbyist for the county, Montgomery’s school system serves 131,531 students. Madaleno attributed the growth to the overall boom nationwide in school-age children and to the economic growth in the county.
“We have a soaring population of students,” said Delegate Carol Petzold, a Democrat and vice-chairman of the House delegation.
Seventy-one projects are included in the request. Two new schools are being built, a sixth elementary school for the northwest and a replacement school for the Forest Oak Middle School in Gaithersburg. The original Forest Oak school was reopened as Shady Grove Middle School this year. The county is requesting $4.226 million for the elementary school and $2.688 million for the replacement school.
A portion of the funds will be used to bring technology into the schools. Joe Lavorgna, county director of planning and capital programming, said wiring the schools for Internet access is being done statewide and should be completed in Montgomery by September 2002.
Montgomery received similar funding last year, $50.2 million, for school renovations and additions. New high schools in Germantown and Silver Spring and a new school for Montgomery Blair High School opened.