Superintendent Recommends $1.49 Billion Six-Year Capital Improvements Program to Add Classroom Space, Modernize Schools and Enhance School Technology and Security
Update: The Board of Education's action on the Superintendent’s Facilities and Boundaries Recommendations will now be on Tuesday, November 27, 2007, at 6:00 p.m. at the Carver Educational Services Center. It previously was scheduled for November 19, 2007.
Superintendent of Schools Jerry D. Weast is recommending a comprehensive $1.49 billion six-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP) for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to fund new classroom space at several schools and provide additional resources to enhance school security and classroom technology, MCPS announced Monday.
In Fiscal Year 2009 alone, the capital plan calls for an investment of $257.9 million, an increase of 6.4 percent or $15.5 million over the previously approved FY 2009 budget. Over six years, the $1.49 billion expenditure plan is an increase of $278.7 million, or 22.9 percent, over the previously approved six-year plan.
Increasing construction costs and new building requirements to ensure that new schools are environmentally friendly are among the primary reasons for the budget increases. While “green” buildings initially cost more for construction, MCPS will realize substantial savings in operating costs over the life of the building.
“I believe this program addresses many of our most pressing construction needs in a fiscally responsible manner and allows us to significantly decrease the number of portable classrooms in use over the next six years,” Weast said. “While we are in an extraordinarily difficult budget year given the state and county financial situations, we must move forward with our program to relieve overcrowded schools and modernize our aging facilities. It is going to be more important than ever that we receive our fair share of state construction funding.”
The six-year plan funds numerous countywide projects such as roof replacements and HVAC systems, and allows MCPS to continue efforts to substantially reduce the use of portable classrooms. By the fall of 2013, the number of portable classrooms is expected to decrease by 62.5 percent from a peak of 685 units in 2005 to 260 units in 2013. For the 2007-2008 school year, more than 10,000 students are attending classes in 462 portable classrooms. This number does not include portables located at MCPS holding facilities and schools with construction projects.
The proposed FY 2009 Capital Budget and FY 2009-2014 CIP include funding for nine elementary school addition projects—Brookhaven, Fairland, Fox Chapel, Harmony Hills, Jackson Road, Montgomery Knolls, Rock View, Sherwood, and Whetstone elementary schools. The six-year plan also includes funding for the reopening of a new elementary school in the Downcounty Consortium to accommodate overutilization at Oakland Terrace and Woodlin elementary schools.
While enrollment has stabilized at about 138,256 students, demographic projections show that elementary enrollment will once again begin growing. Together, these 10 projects total approximately $103.6 million and will reduce the portable classroom inventory by 98 units.
The recommended six-year plan includes funding to implement new initiatives in the school security and technology modernization programs. The additional funding will enhance the comprehensive security program already in place. The initiative includes design and installation of closed-circuit television camera systems in all middle schools, replacement of existing outdated analog camera systems in all high schools, installation of a visitor management system in all schools, and installation of a visitor access system at all elementary schools.
In the technology modernization program, the additional funding will provide more computers and interactive educational technology to strengthen efforts to improve student engagement and participation. The funding also will be used for technology that teachers can use to assess students and modify instruction to meet the needs of each student.
Under the proposed plan, the capital program will maintain the completion dates for all individual school projects, for all systemic countywide projects, and all modernizations, with the exception of a one-year delay for Paint Branch High School. The plan also reduces the scope of the Redland and Ridgeview middle school improvement projects. Modifications to these two buildings will still occur; however, the scope of the projects will be substantially scaled back in order to submit a budget that is within the county’s anticipated fiscal capacity.
Montgomery County, as well as the state of Maryland, is currently faced with fiscal constraints and projected revenue shortfalls. In May 2007, the County Council adopted the FY 2008 Capital Budget and Amendments to the FY 2007-2012 CIP and approved $239.2 million in expenditures for FY 2008 and $1.211 billion in expenditures for the six-year period.
The County Council, on October 2, 2007, set the capital budget Spending Affordability Guidelines (SAG) at $300 million per year for FY 2009 and FY 2010 and $1.8 billion for the FY 2009-2014 period, an increase of $150 million over the previously adopted SAG. This increase, however, may not be enough to fully fund the Recommended FY 2009-2014 CIP.
For FY 2009, Montgomery County is requesting $132.8 million in state funding. Last year, the county received $52.3 million in state aid, which was less than half of the $133.9 million in state funding for which Montgomery County was eligible.
“It is abundantly clear, now more than ever, that we need our fair share of state funding,” said Weast. “Our construction needs are not diminishing, so it is imperative that we receive continued state support to maintain our commitment to providing excellent facilities for our students.”
The Board will hold a CIP work session on November 8 at 7:30 p.m., and public hearings on November 14 and 15 at 7:00 p.m. to receive public comment on the CIP. The Board will take action on the superintendent’s recommended CIP on November 19 at an evening meeting.
A schedule of projects is at the link below.