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Howard announces education funding priorities

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Howard County Executive Calvin Ball has announced his education funding priorities, ahead of the release of his full, fiscal 2020 Capital Improvement Program budget. The proposed capital budget will provide funds to secure schools, renovate aging school buildings, build new schools to fight overcrowding, support crucial renovations, add classrooms and improve technology.

The fiscal 2020 proposed Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) capital budget totals $54.6 million, including $48.5 million in county and $6.1 million in anticipated state funding. The county funding will exceed the average of past four years, even after factoring in the one-time boost in fiscal 2019 to offset state aid reductions. The county’s contribution in fiscal 2020 supports 89 percent of total HCPSS capital budget, the highest share in the last 15 years.

“The combination of slowed revenue growth and our growing debt burden has created a challenging fiscal climate for our county,” said Ball. “But even in tighter times, I know that education has to remain a priority. I want to thank the school system and Board of Education for their assistance and cooperation during this budgeting process. With open communication we have been able to support the board-identified priority projects, without negatively impacting our precarious financial situation.”

The proposed HCPSS capital budget strongly supports the three top priorities of the Board of Education.
● New High School no. 13 to address school overcrowding ($9 million in county funding)
● Talbott Springs Elementary replacement with programmatic and physical upgrades ($9.5 million in county funding)
● Hammond High School Renovation/Addition to increase capacity ($12.5 million in county funding)

The focus on education continues with projects for Howard Community College (HCC). In fiscal 2020, $1.4 million in county funding and $1.4 million state funding are included to start the design phase of a new mathematics and athletics complex for college students.

Funding the Howard County Library System (HCLS) is also a key part of the education picture. The proposed budget includes funding to start planning a new, HCLS Central branch and business-arts education center as part of the downtown Columbia revitalization plan.

Funding is also provided to satisfy the local matching fund ($13.6 million) in order to leverage state aid to support critical systemic renovation and roofing projects. This still leaves $3.9 million in local funds, $6.1 million in state funding, and $2 million in anticipated savings (from new elementary school no. 42, as identified by HCPSS staff) to help address other areas deemed appropriate by HCPSS. These funds were allocated to different programs such as relocatable classrooms and technology improvement based on the school office’s prioritization.

Moreover, Howard County continues to support existing and future school site land acquisition. An additional $2 million is budgeted in fiscal 2020 to acquire land for an elementary school site in the Turf Valley neighborhood of Ellicott City.