ANNAPOLIS – Montgomery County is $23 million short in its request for school construction funds, but its leaders and legislators were confident the Board of Public Works will make up the shortfall eventually.
The county asked the board to fund its full requested $55.7 million. It received $32.9 million out of the $266 million available in the capital budget for public school construction in Maryland.
Legislators and officials stressed that Montgomery County Public Schools, the largest school system in the state, needs another $22.6 million to keep up with the its increasing student enrollment.
Education accounted for 44.5 percent of Gov. Parris Glendening’s $1.5 million capital budget, which he announced Tuesday.
“I hope we get at least $50 million,” said Douglas M. Duncan, county executive, adding that Montgomery County received about $50 million for the past few years.
Montgomery County’s $55.7 million request includes funds for 29 projects, including planning and construction funds for four new rooms to Oakland Terrace Elementary School and eight rooms for Gaithersburg Elementary School.
“Our school population is exploding,” said Sen. Ida G. Ruben, D- Montgomery, chairwoman of the Montgomery County Senate delegation.
The county’s student population is growing by about 4,000 people every year, said Nancy King, county school board president. Montgomery County schools have an enrollment of 145,000.
“We just need seats for the kids,” she said.
Modernizing the county’s existing schools is important, but the first priority is finding space to put all the students, King said. Growth in upper- county areas like Germantown and Damascus is accelerating, and the schools in those areas are “bursting at the seams,” she said.
“Montgomery County is the growth engine of the state of Maryland,” said Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery, chairman of the Montgomery County House delegation.
The county contributed 40 percent of the new jobs, many in the high- tech industries, to the state in the 1990s, he said. That engine needs the fuel of education.
According to Duncan, the county also needs the extra money because actual construction costs are about 8 percent higher than the Inter Agency Committee on School Construction recommended cost of $122 per square foot.