UPDATE (6:50 p.m.)—The Maryland State Board of Education weighed in on Superintendent Kevin Maxwell's claim that Anne Arundel County government violated state law in underfunding students with last year's budget.
The Maintenance of Effort is the minimum sum of money per student allotted by the county in order to keep school funding stable, and was the primary point of contention by Maxwell after County Executive John R. Leopold released his budget recommendations for fiscal year 2013 last week.
Maxwell claimed that the executive “broke the law” by using debt service to calculate the MOE numbers for fiscal year 2012 and then used them as a launch point for next year’s budget. In doing so, Maxwell said Leopold shorted the school system $12 million for fiscal year 2013.
New legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly states the following if a county does not fund the full MOE amount: “The state will intercept the county’s local income tax revenues in the amount by which the county is below MOE and forward funds to the local school board.”
Due to the harsh punishment of failing to meet the MOE requirements, Maxwell said he didn't have "any doubts" that the County Council will meet the MOE funding for fiscal year 2013.
Leopold stood by his claim that the Maryland Attorney General told him the use of debt service was permissible for fiscal year 2012, but told Patch that the state board of education’s decision will force him to fund the $12 million.
“I intend to have a collaborative conversation with the County Council on how to best handle this decision,” Leopold said. “We will have to find a way to provide the money. There’s no question.”
The county executive said the decision not only takes money out of the county budget, but also inhibits upon he and his colleagues’ ability to lead.
“In my tenure over the last six years, the Board of Education budget has increased 17 percent while all other government agencies have decreased by 7 percent,” Leopold said. “The mandates from the state are crowding our ability to fund other essential services.”
In a release by AACPS, Maxwell said he’s confident the County Council will “do the right thing,” and that the MOE issue isn’t about political personalities but about money students are legally entitled to.
Leopold claimed that the school system wants to use the $12 million for salary increases, but AACPS spokesman Bob Mosier said the superintendent hasn’t had enough time to consider what the additional funding may go toward. Mosier also said Maxwell won’t make plans for the money before he knows exactly what the budget entails after the County Council releases its final recommendations at the end of May.
Prior to the state board of education’s decision, Leopold already recommended the addition of 62 new teaching positions throughout the county, with the funds coming from money saved by the school system over the years. Mosier said he couldn’t say if the $12 million might go towards funding those positions.
Maxwell told Patch the $12 million wasn't enough to fund the agreements with the bargaining units for teacher raises and that there were many areas where the money could help.
"There's a lot of needs that we have and we haven't really decided how we could use the money," Maxwell said.
The Anne Arundel County Council will now work with Leopold to determine where the additional $12 million will come from to fund MOE for fiscal year 2013.
“There has to be a way to provide the money, but we’re going to have to find the best way to do that,” Leopold said.
A public hearing for the county general and school system budgets will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 9, at Arundel Center, 44 Calvert St. in Annapolis. Signups begin at 6 p.m.
Another hearing will be held on Monday, May 14, at 7 p.m. at Old Mill High School, 600 Patriot Ln. in Millersville.