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School System Dispute Over $5M Settled with County Coffers

Councilman warns school officials there will be retaliation next budget season.

A $5 million feud between the Anne Arundel County Council and the Anne Arundel County Board of Education appeared to be settled Monday by withdrawing the needed funds from the county's reserves.

That didn't sit well with Councilman John Grasso (R-2nd District), of Glen Burnie, who again threatened the school system with cuts during the next budget session.

"I hope they're watching tonight, because I'll tell you what, you can bet I'm going to have one heck of a large appetite next year—$5 million worth," Grasso said. "And I'd assume that most of my colleagues will pretty much want to show who's running the show, and it's not them."

Earlier this month, the council sparred with a school system representative over a $5 million bill the council thought was already paid.

During budget discussions in May, the county and school system purportedly came to an agreement that a missing $5 million from the maintenance of effort—the minimum county payment for schools—would be taken out of the schools construction fund.

But in August, things changed, and the county was put on notice by the state that they were in violation and had to find a way to repay the school system.

On Monday, the council approved a new agreement. Instead of using the money from the school system's construction fund, it would come out of the county's reserves.

Chief Administrative Officer John Hammond said the school system had expressed "no appetite" in going along with the previous agreement.

Councilman Jamie Benoit (D-4th District) of Crownsville, criticized the school system for not being a "team player" in resolving the issue. Schools spokesman Bob Mosier said they were simply following the state's recommendation, which he called the ultimate arbiter of maintenance of effort.

“We are pleased that the Council chose a course that provides the additional money to our students as required by the State Board of Education, but disappointed it was accompanied by needless political theater on the part of some that simply doesn’t serve our children well," Mosier said.

County Auditor Teresa Sutherland said once the $5 million for the school system was taken out of reserves, it would leave about $1.5 million. That amount has been earmarked for overtime pay for firefighters, but Sutherland said it likely wouldn't be enough to cover overtime for the remainder of the year.

On the bright side, Hammond indicated the state had distributed more income tax than it had budgeted for this year, which could leave the county's general fund better off than anticipated.

This article was updated to provide an additional comment from Mosier.

David Conover October 17, 2012 at 02:50 PM
The story says that "in May, the county and school system purportedly came to an agreement" and the "school system had expressed 'no appetite' in going along with the previous agreement." Sounds like the school system is not playing nice! From a school supporter and property tax, income tax and many other tax payer.
jesse55jp October 17, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Grasso is a total douche. Who keeps voting for him? He just admitted to threatening the school system. There wouldn't be a need to pay $1.5 million in firefighter overtime if the department would do something to retain their employees.
Maryellen Brady October 18, 2012 at 05:30 AM
ADEQUATE FACILITIES Ordinance was corrupted by change in zoning laws which allowed planned subdivisions, if on the drawing board for 5-6 years, to move forward even if existing facilities (schools, water, sewer) were inadequate to support project growth. The school system must be properly funded. The future of this community and our democracy depends on a well educated population. Find the money, take care of the kids. And while at it, I suggest the administration take the needs of EDGEWATER ELEMENTARY school renovations more seriously. The elementary school is an essential part of our stable, community established in 1932.
Mom of child in county schools October 19, 2012 at 12:41 PM
How is saying I think Grasso is wrong for using our tax dollars to see who is "boss" rather than investing in our education bullying?
John Smith October 21, 2012 at 07:52 PM
The school system guy admitted the school system has a $45 MILLION surplus. That's enough to fund the operating costs and renovate a lot of schools. I agree we should adequately fund our schools, but there's no need to cut other governments services to do it when the Board of Education has $45 Million!

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