By andrei Blakely
ANNAPOLIS – Leftover lottery proceeds could go toward badly needed public school construction and renovation under a new bill prefiled for the 2001 General Assembly session by an Anne Arundel County Republican.
School building space statewide is at a premium as enrollments rise and new proposed programs, such as all-day kindergarten, require improved or more facilities.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening is devoting $1 billion over four years toward school construction, but that’s not enough to cover current needs.
The state’s 24 school jurisdictions have requested about $360 million for construction projects this year. Only $250 million is available, said Yale Stenzler, Interagency Committee on School Construction’s executive director.
In fiscal year 2000, the Maryland State Lottery grossed $1.75 billion. The $377 million in the lottery’s general fund went toward education, public health, human resources and public safety, among other programs.
The Maryland Stadium Authority received $23.3 million from lottery revenue. And, a $10 million unanticipated surplus was applied to the state’s horse racing industry.
The bill, pre-filed by Delegate David G. Boschert, R-Anne Arundel, divides one-third of the lottery surplus equally among school jurisdictions. The other two-thirds would remain in the general fund.
“(I am) finding ways to help children get an education. How can you get a quality education when you have an inferior building? I am trying to remedy that,” said Boschert.
Maryland State Lottery revenues have steadily increased since fiscal year 1997.
The state requires jurisdictions to match construction funding on a sliding scale with wealthier jurisdictions paying more. In some cases jurisdictions have had to increase property taxes, Boschert said.
Parents in Montgomery County offered to pay for an entire elementary school in Potomac, said Neil Greenberger, spokesman for the State Department of Education.
Carroll County recently funded construction of a new middle school the state believed was unnecessary. The county now must pay the entire cost.
Money from the proposed bill could assist in such a situation, said Kathleen Sanner, director of school support services for Carroll County Public schools, because now jurisdictions compete for the same state funds.
The governor has added school construction money to his budget, but jurisdictions still need more, she said.
“You can only take so many supply closets and make them into classrooms,” said Greenberger.
Other states use lottery money for education programs including Georgia’s Hope Scholarship, which pays tuition for students who maintain a “B” average and attend college in-state.
“Scholarships are for the mind, this is for the bricks and mortar,” Boschert said.
The new bill would set money aside specifically for building construction. If the money were not available, the jurisdictions would not receive any money, he said.
State officials realize the need for such funding, but are not certain it would gain support in the General Assembly’s upcoming session.
“I think the bill is designed to help local jurisdictions,” said Stenzler. “I think it is something that should be looked at.”