School system faces a $2.8 billion shortfall for capital school construction and renovation
BALTIMORE, MD – City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Councilman James B. Kraft today announced their plan to help address the multi-billion dollar deficit for school construction projects and the renovation of existing school facilities.
Council President Young and Councilman Kraft will introduce a charter amendment on December 6, 2010, that would create a non-lapsing account to help pay for new school construction; renovate existing city school buildings and athletic facilities; expand recreational activities; and modernize education-related equipment and curricula.
The account would be funded, in part, with revenue generated by the City Council through proceeds from existing or new fines, fees and programs; grants and donations; and through the annual Ordinance of Estimates. If passed by the City Council and signed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the proposed charter amendment would require a referendum to become law.
Currently, the City Council does not have the authority to earmark revenue toward educational improvements. On November 2, 2010, 87 percent of city voters approved council bill 08-0055, a charter amendment to create a similar non-lapsing fund to promote sustainability and maintenance of parks and other open space. That charter amendment was sponsored by Councilman Kraft.
Council President Young and Councilman Kraft’s charter amendment is an out-of-the-box idea to deal with a $2.8 billion shortfall for capital school construction and renovation projects facing city schools.
The city school system suffers from having the oldest facilities in Maryland and a local tax base that cannot adequately support new construction and renovations, said Mayor Rawlings-Blake earlier today during a press conference announcing the creation of a task force to study the issue.
“I agree with Mayor Rawlings-Blake that existing funding sources will never fully solve the multi-billion dollar deficit facing the school system, but doing nothing is not an option we can afford to take,” Council President Young said. “The charter amendment proposed by myself and Councilman Kraft will not singularly solve this funding crisis, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
The school system receives a lower share of its government’s local dollars annually than any other school system in the state.
“This is a perfect example of a situation where the council needs the ability to designate funds and to plan for funding needs outside of the yearly budget cycle,” Councilman Kraft said. “By passing this amendment, we will be ensuring that we are exploring every available resource to improve the conditions in which our students are learning.
“In light of today’s announcement by Mayor Rawlings-Blake and City Schools CEO Dr. Andres A. Alonso, we hope that this will be another tool to assist them in their efforts to meet the overwhelming capital needs of Baltimore City Public Schools,” Kraft added.