Kamenetz to accelerate air conditioning installation timeline for county schools
County to forward-fund state construction dollars
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has announced plans to forward fund, assigning county funds with the expectation that the country government will be reimbursed by the state, the state’s portion of school construction funding, allowing the county to accelerate the installation of central air conditioning in public schools.
Under Kamenetz’s new plan, most of the remaining elementary and middle schools without air conditioning will receive central air by the fall of 2017. High schools will receive air conditioning by August of 2018.
Currently, 33 schools in the county are without air conditioning, including eight in Dundalk. Originally, Kamenetz’s plan called for all schools to be air conditioned by 2021; that timeline was later accelerated to 2019. With this latest announcement, the plan has been accelerated again.
The only exceptions will be schools already slated for extensive renovations or rebuilds. Those schools will be completed according to previouslyannounced timelines.
This means that Dundalk, Berkshire and Colgate elementary schools will not be air conditioned by the fall of 2017, but will stick to their previouslyannounced construction schedules.
Dundalk Elementary is slated to begin construc- tion next summer, while Berkshire has a likely build date of summer 2018. Colgate will follow with construction set to begin in the summer of 2019. Completion dates have not yet been announced.
Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts is slated for major renovations and will not be completed until 2019.
The efforts are all part of Kamenetz’s 10- year, $ 1.3 billion Schools for Our Future program. As part of the initiative, the county has committed to building 15 new schools, along with renovations and the installation in total of central air in 90 schools that had been without it.
As part of that plan, the county has committed two dollars for every one dollar invested by the state.
In his Fiscal Year 2017 budget, Kamenetz had already included $ 121.8 million to forward fund most of the state’s share of construction funds, leaving a balance of $ 83 million to complete the program. He now hopes to fund the remaining $ 45 million due from the state. Part of this funding will come from a $ 20 million surplus in the school system budget.
The county will seek re- imbursement of the $ 166 million worth of forwarded state funds.
Kamenetz’s latest move comes just weeks after the state Board of Public Works ( consisting of Governor Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp) voted to withhold $ 10 million in state construction funds on the condition that the county must install portable units in every classroom by this fall.
Kamenetz did not mince words in his announcement of the accelerated funding.
“Our students and teachers deserve a climate controlled and energy efficient central air conditioning system and not window units from Home Depot, as suggested by the Governor and Comptroller,” he said.
“Last week, Governor Hogan withheld $ 10 million of state funds as ransom so that we would capitulate and install window units,” he added. “It’s ridiculous that we have to advance the state’s share of funding to do the job right the first time.”
He also attacked the board’s stipulation that the air conditioning must be installed by this fall.
“For the Governor to suggest that window units could be installed this summer, knowing full well that under State procurement law it would take at least 16 months, is disingenuous,” he said. “Shame on the governor for not stepping forward with the state share to complete the job in a timely manner.”
According to Alan Brody, a spokesman for Franchot, the comptroller is currently looking at Kamenetz’s proposal.
“Comptroller Franchot is glad Baltimore County is suggesting an accelerated plan to air condition all the public school classrooms,” Brody said. “We’re reviewing it and asking questions. We’re hopeful we can be supportive when the details of the plan are clear and we can give it a fair evaluation.”
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has once again accelerated the timeline for installing central air conditioning in county schools.