The Maryland Board of Public Works last week unanimously approved a new set of regulations which will shift approximately 10 per cent of the cost of school construction and renovation from the state's budget to the budgets of individual jurisdictions.
The new rules represent a compromise between the existing regulations, which leave the state with almost the entire burden of paying for school construction, and a set of regulations proposed earlier this year by a study commission.
These proposed regulations, which were formulated by a 18-member commission headed by state treasurer William S. James, would have transferred a substantial portion of the cost of school construction to the state's 24 jurisdictions - the 23 counties and Baltimore City.
The modification of these more stringent regulations was met with relief by spokesmen for the various counties.
"It is readily apparent that you have made many significant changes," Leonard Dayton, the president of the Maryland Association of Counties, told the board at its meeting last week. "The changes. . .substantially approve the regulations and will ease the burden on the property taxpayer."
Under the formula approved by the board last week, individual jurisdictions must now pay for the architects' and engineers' fees incurred during the planning of new school construction.
Both Leo Ritter, director of the state school construction officials in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties estimated that these fees average between 5 and 6 per cent of the total cost of a new building.
In addition, local jurisdictions would be required to pay for such other construction preliminaries as soil samplings, bid advertising and water and sewer connection charges.
One other point on which the state board of public works bowed somewhat to local demand was the question of "moveable equipment," such as furniture.
The sliding scale for state payments on furniture was maintained, with the state program Picking up a greater percentage of the cost of high school furnishings than it would for an elementary schools.
However, the amount the state would pay for furnishings for every school was reduced.
For elementary schools, instead of paying 7.5 per cent of the construction cost for furnishings, as it did up in the past, the state would now pick up only 5.5 per cent of this cost from now on.
For high schools and special education schools, the drop in state payment for furnishings was even greater, down from 11 per cent of construction costs to 6.5 per cent under the new rules.
Nonetheless, while "this is worse than what we had originally, it's far better than the James Committee recommendations," said Philip Rohr, Montgomery County's director of capital projects.
Neither Rohr nor Roy Parker, Prince George's director of construction, planning and real estate, could estimate how much extra money the new rules will cost the counties when their real effect is felt in fiscal year 1979.
"The problem is, we haven't really digested it ourselves," said Parker.
He estimated, however, that when the program's new rules are completely in effect, his country government will have to pick up 20 per cent more of the total construction cost than they were paying for before.
The new regulations would not take full effect for a year or two, he explained, because almost all of the projects for fiscal 1978 are already funded, as are some of those for fiscal 1979. The new rules apply only to brand-new projects which have not been previously funded.
Leo Ritter of the state program, who headed the group which revised the proposed James commission rules, disagreed with the 20 per cent figure used by Parker. Ritter stood by his estimate that only 8 to 10 per cent more of the cost of new school buildings will be borne by the counties.
Each year, the total of all local jurisidctions requests to the state for school construction funding amounts to some $250 to $300 million, Ritter said. In fiscal year 1977 the state funded a total of $80 million worth of construction, while for fiscal 1978, $83 million is set to be spent by the state.