The Calvert County Board of Education has sent the Southern Maryland state delegation a message: Support any legislation that could change the state's transportation funding formula or provide extra money for building and renovating schools.
On Friday, school Superintendent James R. Hook and the school board outlined priorities they want local legislators to pursue when the 2000 General Assembly convenes in January. The education officials' concerns read like a laundry list of the county's growing pains.
Hook said the transportation funding formula has not kept pace with enrollment increases during the past decade. The outdated funding is a "joke," he said.
Calvert County receives about $122 per student from the state for transportation, but the system's actual costs are more than three times that much, school officials said. The county's portion of the transportation budget has risen from 7 percent in 1981 to about 70 percent today.
"That's probably the one place where we haven't gotten our fair share from the state," Hook said. "For us, the fastest growing county in Maryland, it's been a disaster."
Hook and the school board also stressed the need for an expanded career center. "We're turning away hundreds of students a year because we don't have the space," said Board of Education President Robert L. Gray.
In its legislative agenda, the school board also asks the state delegation to support any additional dollars for building and renovating schools statewide.
School officials said they have not been able to finance needed renovations at some of the county's older schools because all the construction dollars have been dedicated to building new schools.
"We've been postponing maintenance and renovation projects for the last six years," Hook said.
Recently, the county commissioners and school officials have been sparring over the impending budget and whether the county needs one or two more high schools.
"The bottom line is, it's very difficult to be cost-containing when you have 500 new pupils each year," Hook said.
Hook and school board members have said that the county--which now has three public high schools--will need five high schools sometime in the future to accommodate increasing enrollment. County commissioners, on the other hand, have said the building of a fourth high school will be sufficient.
"The fourth is a given. The fifth . . . it'll be here," said state Del. George W. Owings III (D-Calvert).
County commissioners have decided to limit any school budget increase next year to less than $2 million in additional county dollars, a goal school officials have called unrealistic. Nevertheless, Gray said the school board would try to cooperate with commissioners to come up with a suitable budget.
"We want to cooperate with the commissioners. Is there something in our budget you don't like? Is there fat in our budget you don't like? Come and talk to us," Gray said.