From the Desk of
County Councilman Kirby Delauter
(3/2016) School construction seems to be the hot button issue in Frederick County. As Iíve noted before, weíve been dealing with school funding issues for well over twenty years. The sad thing is, weíve done the same thing over and over again that doesnít work and we somehow try to convince ourselves, weíre not insane for expecting a different outcome? You can
reference as I did, a Frederick News Post article from August 2000 that stated impact fees were increased back then by 300%. This according to the County Manager at the time, also with then BoCC member Jan Gardner stated that building 1200 homes per year with these newly increase impact fees of 300%, would adequately service our bond debt. Bond debt is how we fund our schools. They were as wrong
then as they are today.
Fast forward 16 years, in a recent email exchange with now County Executive Jan Gardner, she still wants to use the same methodology of blaming developers for all the school funding woes. Her email stated; "It seems that there is more concern about over burdening developers than concern about our students going to school in seriously overcrowded schools". This was in response to Council Member
Jerry Donaldís email that stated: "I hope that the 8th wealthiest county in one of the wealthiest states in the wealthiest country in the world doesn't decide to have students eat lunch in the hallway because we don't want to over burden developers.
That would be pathetic.
I hope the Council sees this in the same way I do. Well Council Member Donald and County Executive Gardner, I donít see it the same way you do, and to act as though students eating lunch in a hallway is somehow going to become reality based on developer greed is just simply absurd. I see developers as having been part of the solution, and blaming them does nothing to fix the problem.
Let me state the solutions that are coming forth, neither of which Council Member Donald or County Executive Gardner initiated. But first let me say, the reason these alternative proposals came about was because CE Gardner and Council President Otis were adamant about once again going down the road to insanity by requesting that impact fees be raised yet again on new housing. The same tired
model thatís been used for over 20 years, and failed. Itís simple economics to see that when you tax something more, you get less of it, in this case, you will yield less revenue for schools by taxing homes more. The developers on the other hand along with the Frederick County Building Industry Association came up with a plan to take on the bond debt for one school so the school could be built
sooner. We need two elementary schools now, and several more in the out years of 2017 and beyond.
Council Member Chmelik and I met with the Superintendent of Schools Dr. Terry Alban and we mentioned putting a task force together to have the school system lease schools from private entities, a true public, private partnership. One thing I said to Dr. Alban that I think resonated with her was that during the recent snow storm I asked her how she spent her time? She said she was busy
coordinating efforts to see when schools could be open. I replied that if she leased the schools from a private entity, she could make a simple phone call and state what day she wanted the schools open, and if they were not open, the entity would pay a penalty, pre-determined within their contract. This way she can concentrate on what she does best, educating students and not worrying about snow
removal. I mentioned also that itís her job to produce students that enter college, vocational school, the military or the workforce that are educated and prepared for this highly competitive world we live in. We all agree on that.
I have a plan to fund the third elementary school with private funds. I have a developer that will procure the site work and the building along with a funding source that will fund 100% of the construction and lease the finished product back to the county over a 30-year lease. Council Member Chmelik and I will be putting together a task force to work with the state, county and the BOE, to make
this a reality. More details to come as we move closer to procuring this over the next 6 -12 months.
In my mind we can think outside the box with ideas like this. Our kids canít wait any longer for solutions and I have no plan to pass this burden on to future elected officials. Weíre going to solve the problem with a long-term solution, once and for all.
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