Cumberland Times-News

Local News

January 15, 2014

Garrett commissioners can’t dictate school board policy

County allocated $2.2M to avoid facility closures

OAKLAND — The Garrett County commissioners’ decision to conditionally give the board of education $2.2 million for fiscal 2015 wasn’t legally permissable, according to a letter from the school board to the commissioners.

The commissioners’ conditions required that the school board discontinue all plans to close schools in fiscal 2015 and that the Garrett County Public School System remain an entity participant in the Garrett County Employee Health Care Coalition.

The board of education is not bound by the commissioner conditions, according to Miriam Sincell, an Oakland attorney who advised the board on the issue.

“It is true that a county may condition funding to a local board of education; indeed, a county has the last word on the allocation of funds by budget category and the transfer of funds across categories,” writes Sincell in a letter to the board. “However, those conditions must satisfy certain standards.”

The conditions can’t regulate education or intrude on the board’s responsibility to set education policy in the county, according to Sincell. “The county’s ability to condition appropriations is limited in the context of education,” writes Sincell.

Even though the county cannot place conditions on the school board, the two conditions it listed are nonetheless going to be followed by the school board. “We look forward to working with the county to insure health care and to keep our schools viable,” writes the board in the letter.

The commissioners’ condition on school closures goes against the position of the Attorney General’s Office and is at odds with the state’s preemption of the field of education, according to Sincell. Additionally, the commissioners can’t allocate funding for fiscal 2015 and condition it on the board’s approval of an official position regarding any school closures for future years; any condition can only be for the particular fiscal year.  

The status quo funding for fiscal 2015 saved from 50 to 60 full-time positions, according to the board.

When a board is required to purchase employee benefits through the county, it is seen as coercive and inconsistent with the discretion granted by the state law, according to Sincell.  “The condition must not conflict with the law, and it must not be coercive,” writes Sincell.

To balance the $2.2 million funding gap, $500,000 will be appropriated from reductions in county government expenses and the school system will be required to reduce operating expenses by $200,000, County Administrator Monty Pagenhardt has indicated previously.

Despite the funding, the board still faces the challenges of balancing class sizes, implementing newly mandated curriculum and addressing the increased need for technology.

Text Only
Local News
  • Cemetery group’s efforts revive Oak Hill grounds Cemetery group’s efforts revive Oak Hill grounds

    After you drive Alexander and Furnace streets then navigate a couple of switchbacks on Cemetery Road, you’d figure there would be no more uphill.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Proposed county budget holds most agencies flat

    After taking into account an income tax shortfall, Allegany County Finance Director Jason Bennett said he’ll propose a budget that holds most outside agencies to flat funding and funds the Board of Education at what county officials say are maintenence of effort levels for 2015.

    April 17, 2014

  • RYAN WOLF Wolf named 2014-15 Garrett Teacher of the Year

    Southern Garrett High School teacher Ryan Wolf has been named the 2014-15 Garrett County Teacher of the Year.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rep. Delaney discusses congressional gridlock Rep. Delaney discusses congressional gridlock

    While giving a civics lesson at Frostburg State University on Thursday, U.S. Rep. John Delaney, congressman from Maryland’s sixth district, told students that the polarization in Congress is due primarily to redistricting and a poorly designed Congressional schedule.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fourmile Ridge wind project approved, moves forward

    The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the Fourmile Ridge wind project in eastern Garrett County and site preparation started April 7, according to Frank Maisano, a wind industry spokesman. The current notice listed on the FAA website for the project is for a small change in turbine location.

    April 17, 2014

  • Oakland back to normal after toppled tanker closes business district

    The town of Oakland returned to normal activities Thursday, one day after a tanker full of liquid propane overturned in the heart of the business district.
    Shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday the toppled tanker was removed and its 10,000-gallon load transferred to another tanker.

    April 17, 2014

  • Students back Southern Middle School renovation

    Students from both Southern and Northern middle schools presented a list of reasons why Southern Middle needs to be renovated during the Garrett County Commission meeting Tuesday.

    April 17, 2014

  • Trial run Trial run

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 72nd anniversary of Doolittle Raid on Tokyo 72nd anniversary of Doolittle Raid on Tokyo

    Friday, April 18, has another special meaning for me besides Good Friday.
    April 18, 1942, proved to be a pivotal day for American morale, following the deadly air attack and destruction conceived and executed by Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lara Courrier seeks re-appointment to Mineral school board

    I, Lara Courrier, am seeking re-election to the Mineral County Board of Education to continue the work I’ve done the last four years. Having served as a school counselor at the Burlington Center School and the Chick Buckbee Juvenile Center for nearly six years, as well as approximately 20 years total working with children, I have insight into the needs of kids and the importance of the actions of the school board. Having three sons and several nieces and nephews in Mineral County schools, I have an added incentive to continue to work hard to ensure the efficient running of our school system. 

    April 17, 2014