I read with disbelief the press release by the Kirwan work group that worked on the division of costs between the state and the counties for the Kirwan proposals. (See Associated Press story: “Md. panel recommends $4B school funding formula,” Oct. 16 Times-News, Page 1A.)

I served 27 months on the Kirwan Commission and know how often the commission was warned the costs would be too great to be absorbed by most counties.

Marc Tucker, who designed the basic plan for the commission, stated he felt all funding should come from the state.

The press release stated that Allegany County would see no additional expense, even though by 2030, Allegany County’s mandated cost will be $8.2 million higher than today’s contribution.

Also the public has to be aware that it is not just an additional $8.2 million in 2030, but substantial increases every year.

Counties have only two primary sources of income, the income “piggy back” tax, and property tax. Counties also have balanced budgets, that require a match of income for additional expenses.

To afford the additional Kirwan increase, plus other expenses not represented in the commission’s funding proposals, taxes will have to increase.

Allegany County could see a mandate to education equal to or even greater than the total income from property taxes. Presently, Allegany County receives $41,160,000 in property tax. The projected 2030 cost for Kirwan in 2030 is $38,300,000.

There are many great and needed proposals from the Kirwan Commission. The costs being placed on the counties, however will create great hardships in all areas other than education.

Del. Maggie McIntosh has suggested that the counties need to merely adjust their funding priorities to afford the new costs. I guess Allegany County could move funding from the Sheriff’s Office, but then, it could not afford to supply School Resource Officer protection to the schools.

We could remove funding from the Health Department, but then it might not be able to fund the positions it supplies the schools. We could hold funding from Human Resources Development Commission, but it helps house and feed many of our students.

Allegany County cannot afford the new unfunded mandates without a substantial increase in taxes, and Allegany County citizens can not afford additional taxes.

The state never fully funded the Thornton Commission proposals, but the counties were forced to pay more and more.

The state now requires the counties to pay 50% of teacher pension costs — $245,000 in Allegany County by 2030. The last time the state wanted more funding for education, it added an automatic escalator for the Maintenance Of Effort that counties must pay.

We help fund Allegany College of Maryland, since the state never funds it to their “ required” level. Emergency medical services costs are skyrocketing. The county back-fills some of the state cuts to the Health Department.

This cost-sharing for Kirwan MUST be re-thought. The counties are funding partners for education, but have little voice in the decision making.

I urge all county and municipal elected officials, county commissioners and council members, mayors and city and town council members, to pay attention and travel to Annapolis for the hearings on these funding matters.

Bill Valentine

Little Orleans

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