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Financial matters top Washington Co. school board's legislative concerns

November 20, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Several financial issues were among the list of legislative priorities the Washington County Board of Education set Tuesday night with a unanimous vote.

Some issues the board took a position on, while others it just wanted to be monitored during the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 9, 2013, in Annapolis.

The school board is set to meet publicly with the county’s state legislative delegation on Dec. 11 to discuss legislative issues, said Anthony Trotta, the school board’s chief legal counsel. According to the school board’s upcoming list of activities, the meeting at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown begins at 9 a.m.

One of the items on the board’s watchlist is a concern there might be an effort to increase the teacher pension costs that the state began transferring to local governments earlier this year, Trotta said.

Another item the board wants monitored is the Maryland Association of Counties might seek a larger role in controlling local school boards’ budgets, Trotta said.

The school board supports efforts to pursue two grants for the county that Washington County did not receive this fiscal year.

The first is an annual disparity grant for counties with per-capita income-tax revenues less than 75 percent of the state’s average. The county used to get the grant, but the program was capped so counties that didn’t get it in fiscal year 2010, including Washington County, couldn’t be considered in the future even though the county has met qualifications for the grant.

The other grant specifically aids counties with teacher pensions costs transferred to local governments in the past year, said Ardath Cade, the board’s legislative liaison, in a phone interview after the meeting. These supplemental disparity grants were given to counties that already received disparity grants. The grant’s name was changed from supplemental disparity grant to teachers retirement supplemental grant after Baltimore County was added to the program because that county didn’t qualify for a disparity grant, Cade said.

The school board’s priority list includes recommending state legislators provide funding for any mandates passed to local school systems.

The board also wants to ensure the Interagency Committee on School Construction remains the entity that makes school construction funding recommendations to the Board of Public Works.

After the meeting, Trotta said there was a bill last legislative session that tried to bypass the committee when it came to a new pot of school construction funds.

“If we ever get away from that, counties like ours could be in real trouble,” board member Justin Hartings said.

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