Schuh adds funding for Edgewater, Tyler Heights, Richard Henry Lee school projects

May 30, 2018

Work to revitalize Tyler Heights, Edgewater and Richard Henry Lee elementary schools could start this summer under a supplemental budget plan released Wednesday by County Executive Steve Schuh.

The budget, to be submitted to the County Council June 8, would complete work on the schools by the end of 2020 and represents a reversal for the administration. In the budget released earlier this month, the county executive rejected a request for additional funding from the county Board of Education.

Amalie Brandenburg, Schuh’s education officer, said the money is being moved from fiscal 2020 to fiscal 2019 to accelerate construction.

“We didn’t have to cut projects to make this happen,” she said.

Brandenburg said the administration heard calls from the school communities for faster action “loud and clear.”

A 2015 facilities utilization study by MGT listed the schools among the worst in the county for building condition, and at public hearings this month parents testified about the urgent need for improvements. Revitalizations have been proposed for all three.

The six-year capital plan for schools approved in 2017 included $10.5 million in fiscal 2019 for the projects. In February, the school board asked for $55 million in the budget year starting July 1 to allow the projects to break ground this summer.

Schuh rejected that request, providing $11.7 million in his proposed capital budget. He accused the board of approving an inflated budget for political reasons.

The supplemental budget he will submit to the council next month more than doubles that initial proposal, providing an additional $36 million for the three schools. The council must approve the final county budget, an can add education spending if it cuts equivalent funding elsewhere in the budget.

The extra money is enough to start building in late summer, schools Chief Operating Officer Alex Szachnowicz said. A revitalized Richard Henry Lee in Glen Burnie would be complete by August or September 2020. Tyler Heights in Annapolis and Edgewater elementary would be complete by December 2020.

In a statement, Superintendent George Admit to said the move "hastens the day when thousands more students will be educated in state-of-the-art facilities."

Brandenburg said the money won’t be divided exactly evenly, as each project has a different price tag. But each school will be able to get construction off the ground, she said.

The money will be added while preserving $28 million proposed for advance land acquisition for schools, the county said in a prepared statement.

Councilman Chris Trumbauer, whose district includes Tyler Heights, is considering a proposal to cut money from the land acquisition item to pay for the schools’ repairs.

He said the council needs to make sure it is fiscally responsible to pull the money from fiscal 2020 to fiscal 2019. Trumbauer, D-Annapolis, said he is almost certain the elementary school funding will be in there — the question that remains is how to pay for it.

The community has waited a long time for an improved Tyler Heights, Traumbauer said, and the other schools are in the same boat.

“It is drastically overcrowded and the conditions, they’re not acceptable for an Anne Arundel County public school in 2018,” he said.

Councilman John Grasso’s district includes Richard Henry Lee Elementary School. Keeping the money to purchase land — including land in his district — ensures space to build future schools before developers can buy big parcels, he said.

“He’s listening to what the people have to say,” Grasso said. “That’s how these schools got taken care of.”

Szachnowicz said — if all is approved by the council — staff would move out of Richard Henry Lee this summer and move into Corkran Middle School, where the elementary school will be housed for two years until renovations is complete.

In addition to the extra $36 million for the elementary projects, the supplemental budget includes $1.3 million to upgrade the Dragun Science Building at Anne Arundel Community College, provide $150,000 for upgrades to Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts and provide $2.8 million in funding for air conditioning improvements at Annapolis Middle. The county requested — but doesn’t expect to receive — state money for the Annapolis Middle School HVAC project in fiscal 2019, Szachnowicz said. Schuh’s proposal forward-funds the repairs.

“It takes that project out of a holding pattern and reactivates it so we can begin in earnest in late summer,” Szachnowicz said.

http://www.capitalgazette.com/news/schools/ac-cn-elementary-revitalizations-0530-story.html