Or at least what amounts to the same thing.
The Maryland State Legislature and the governor, Martin O'Malley, really stuck it to the citizen taxpayers with the passing of Senate Bill 848, School Maintenance of Effort - "The Reform Bill". What this bill does - in affect - is allow the county's Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Kevin Maxwell to declare the Board of Education is not being funded at the same level as the previous year and ask the County Council to override the tax cap that has been in place in Anne Arundel County for over 20 years. The word 'ask' is of course really means 'require'.
So, the tax cap that was passed on the ballot referendum by the citizens of this county has just been wiped out by the stroke of the Governor's pen. All in the supposed interest of funding "the children" and "education". At the same time this was happening at the state level, our Board of Education members were asked by three school employee unions to support a petition drive they plan to initiate that would do the same thing....raise our property tax cap in order to fund education. The school board voted to support them. This is because we have members of our school board who either represent unions, are members of unions or have wives who are members of unions, and are vetted by a commission that is represented by unions. A little conflict of interest you ask?
I believe most of what's behind both the Governor's and our Board of Education's interested in overriding the wishes of the citizens is that the counties will again be subject to taking on the funding of the teacher's pensions under the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (BRFA). Governor O'Malley plans another special session in May to pass the bills that died before the regular session ended, one of them being the BRFA. If the governor gets his way it will cost Anne Arundel County $12 million in the first year, about $15 million the next, close to $19 million the third year, and then fully finding the state's shortfall with close to $22 million the fourth year. Those amounts were included in the BRFA which died with Sine Die.
SB 848 has the following sections that I extrapolated straight from the bill:
(a) (1) AFTER MAKING THE DISTRIBUTIONS REQUIRED UNDER §§ 5 2–604 THROUGH 2–607 OF THIS SUBTITLE, IF IT IS DETERMINED THAT A COUNTY HAS NOT MET THE LOCAL FUNDING REQUIREMENTS FOR EDUCATION UNDER § 5–202(D) OF THE EDUCATION ARTICLE, THE COMPTROLLER SHALL DISTRIBUTE TO THE COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION AN AMOUNT EQUAL TO THE AMOUNT CALCULATED UNDER § 5–213 OR § 5–213.1 OF THE EDUCATION ARTICLE.
(C) (1) IF THE SUPERINTENDENT FINDS THAT A COUNTY IS NOT COMPLYING WITH THE MAINTENANCE OF LOCAL EFFORT PROVISIONS OF § 4 5–202(D)(1)(II) OF THIS SUBTITLE, THE SUPERINTENDENT SHALL NOTIFY THE COUNTY OF SUCH NONCOMPLIANCE. (2) IF A COUNTY DISPUTES THE FINDING WITHIN 15 DAYS AFTER THE ISSUANCE OF A NOTICE UNDER PARAGRAPH (1) OF THIS SUBSECTION, THE DISPUTE SHALL BE REFERRED PROMPTLY TO THE STATE BOARD, WHICH SHALL MAKE A FINAL DETERMINATION. (3) (I) WITHIN 15 DAYS OF RECEIPT OF CERTIFICATION OF NONCOMPLIANCE BY THE SUPERINTENDENT OR THE STATE BOARD AND SUBJECT TO SUBPARAGRAPH (II) OF THIS PARAGRAPH, THE COMPTROLLER SHALL, UNDER § 2–608 OF THE TAX – GENERAL ARTICLE, WITHHOLD INCOME TAX REVENUE FROM THE COUNTY SO THAT THE TOTAL AMOUNT WITHHELD IS EQUAL TO THE AMOUNT BY WHICH A COUNTY FAILED TO MEET THE MAINTENANCE OF EFFORT REQUIREMENT.
(2) THE COMPTROLLER SHALL DISTRIBUTE THE AMOUNT WITHHELD UNDER PARAGRAPH (1) OF THIS SUBSECTION DIRECTLY TO THE COUNTY BOARD.
Dr. Kevin Maxwell, the county's superintendent of Schools recently wrote a guest column in the Capital newspaper accusing the county executive's budget of violating the law "by failing to provide more than $12 million required under the MOE law". I've spoken with members of the county council who tell me the county has never not met Maintenance of Effort.
Somewhere is the truth. I think it lies in the Superintendent expecting to have to pick up the Teacher's pension funding which the governor has forgotten was part of his job.
This, my friends, is giving our appointed school board taxing authority. This is why Anne Arundel County residents need to get a referendum on the ballot for an elected school board - one that must answer to the citizens. I have written before about the process by which we get our school board members and the fiasco of a ballot referendum that gave us this travesty. Folks, you were mislead by the legislators who put that referendum on the ballot.
The only way to bypass the legislature and the governor is by petition drive (again) for a ballot referendum. It is imperative that if the Board of Education will be able to raise your taxes, they must be accountable to the citizens.
Also the school board members are responsible for hiring the superintendent. He works for them, not necessarily the parents and students.
Now that we have a very accessible online petition signing system, we could be successful in getting a school board that represents the interests of Anne Arundel County, not the governor of Maryland. He of course has his eye on bigger things... like the President of the United States. They call him "Son of Obama" in the Wall Street Journal.
Have I given you enough reason to think we need a new school board selection process?