Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Sunday offered to help Baltimore City Schools bridge a $130 million funding gap for next school year in a deal with some attached “fiscal accountability requirements,” though one Maryland lawmaker says his offer may be for naught.
Under Hogan’s new supplemental budget proposal, City Schools would receive an additional $23.7 million on top of what the state was already offering for fiscal 2018. The school system is currently facing a deficit equal to roughly 10 percent of its $1.3 billion budget for 2017-18, and is threatening teacher, staff and program cuts if it can’t come up with the money.
To receive the extra funding, Hogan’s office said lawmakers would need to pass legislation “requiring greater fiscal accountability,” including having an independent accountant work with the state Department of Budget and Management to audit the school system. His team negotiated that requirement with state legislators, Mayor Catherine Pugh and City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises, he said.
“Ensuring that every Maryland student has access to a world-class education is the number one priority of our administration, and I thank Mayor Pugh, Dr. Santelises, and members of the legislature for working with us to provide this support to schools in Baltimore City and ten jurisdictions across the state,” said Hogan in part in a statement.
Pugh thanked the governor and the city’s lawmakers in the General Assembly in a statement on Monday afternoon. “First, I want to thank Governor Hogan for including $23.7 million in supplemental funds to help us address the Baltimore City Public Schools’ structural deficit. I also want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the city legislative delegation, led by Appropriations Chair Maggie McIntosh, for its continued efforts on behalf of Baltimore’s children and families,” she said.
Santelises said in her own statement that she “look[s] forward to continued partnership with our state and city lawmakers as we complete efforts to secure the remaining funding and work together to ensure City Schools’ financial stability for the future.”
This isn’t the governor’s first supplemental budget proposal of this legislative session. On Friday, he announced an initial supplemental budget proposing $10 million in added funding for fighting Maryland’s opioid and heroin crisis, $2.6 million for higher education initiatives and $2 million to help the Baltimore Police Department comply with the U.S. Justice Department’s consent decree requirements. It didn’t include extra money for schools.
His second supplemental budget offers money for school systems across Maryland, some of which, like Baltimore, have experienced drops enrollment in recent years. The state’s budget formula traditionally rescinds money for school systems with declining student populations from year to year, but lawmakers have considered altering that formula to help with school budget deficits across the state.
Other jurisdictions that would receive additional funding: Allegany County ($793,000), Calvert County ($240,000), Carroll County ($1.6 million), Cecil County ($190,000), Garrett County ($456,000), Harford County ($356,000), Kent County ($215,000), Queen Anne’s County ($22,000), Somerset County ($455,000) and Talbot County ($133,000).
Hogan said in his statement that “more money isn’t the only answer,” and that Baltimore specifically needs “greater transparency and accountability to city school finances.”
City lawmakers, parents and activists have pushed back on such criticisms from Hogan before. After he called the school system’s budget an “absolute disaster” on WBAL Radio in late February, Baltimore elected officials, Santelises and others blasted his comments at a rally in the Inner Harbor, arguing the school system’s budget had already been audited and vetted. Councilman Zeke Cohen of the 1st District suggested that day that rather than blaming the city, “a broken state budget formula that has failed to keep up with inflation and left our kids behind” was responsible.
For months, officials and parents have been calling on Pugh’s and Hogan’s administrations to find a way to “fix the gap.” Pugh and Del. Maggie McIntosh announced in early March that they found $180 million in state and city funds to allocate over the next three years to schools, but said Hogan and Senate President Mike Miller had also told them they would assist with finding money.
City officials have also suggested shifting as much as $10 million over from the Baltimore Police Department’s budget to schools (Pugh has said she would like to move $5.5 million from police to schools) and the school system says it could free up $30 million with spending and hiring cuts at its headquarters on North Avenue. Up until Sunday night, Hogan’s administration hadn’t publicly offered to help with the shortfall.
Despite his financial olive branch to education funding proponents, McIntosh of Baltimore has suggested it may be unnecessary. She told The Sun last night that lawmakers from both houses of the General Assembly have already crafted their own budget bill that would cut mandatory pensions for Baltimore to free up the same amount, about $24 million, for City Schools.
They’re expected to approve their budget bill today. If passed, it would preclude Hogan’s supplemental budget from being considered in the legislature, she said.
McIntosh’s office hasn’t returned a request for comment from Baltimore Fishbowl.
This story has been updated with comments from Mayor Catherine Pugh and City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises.
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