TOWSON, Md. - Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's legislative agenda has a very specific focus in 2013: public education, public education, public education.
The County Executive held meetings with each of the County's legislative district delegations during December to discuss the upcoming session. During those meetings, Baltimore County legislators expressed support for efforts to secure more education funding from the State.
"We have one of the oldest school inventories in the State, and 80% of our schools are more than 40 years old" said County Executive Kamenetz. "We have an aging infrastructure that must be addressed. When I took office in 2010, 54% of the County schools did not have air conditioning. In just two years, we have reduced that number to 36%, and we must continue to chip away at that issue."
On Monday, Governor O'Malley announced $336 million in State funding for school renovation and construction projects across the State, including $25 for air conditioning. The County Executive will seek support for the following education funding during the session:
· $123 million school renovation and construction
· $16.8 million from Energy Efficient Grants
· $5 million for Safe School Initiatives
The school system's $123 million capital request includes funding for a new elementary school along the York Road corridor, renovation and addition for Hereford High School, renovations for Pikesville High, Overlea High School and Catonsville Elementary School.
The request also includes funding for air conditioning at the following schools:
· Timonium Elementary
· Fort Garrison Elementary
· Middleborough Elementary
· Franklin Elementary
· Sussex Elementary
· Hebbville Elementary
· Woodmoor Elementary
· Middlesex Elementary
Over the past ten years, Baltimore County has invested more than $1 billion in school renovation and construction projects, and the State has contributed $350 million, for a total investment of nearly $1.4 billion since 2003.
"Given Baltimore County's aging schools, it is imperative that we get a bigger piece of the school funding pie," said the County Executive. "Last year, Baltimore County only received 12.8% of the total allocation, and that is simply not sufficient."
County Executive Kamenetz also addressed the importance of funding for school safety initiatives. On the first day of school this year, a Perry Hall High School student was shot in the school cafeteria, and following the tragedy at Sandy Hook, the County Executive wrote a letter to State and Federal officials urging them to pass effective gun safety legislation. In that letter he called for legislation that would:
· Stop allowing exceptions to national background checks
· Stop the sale of military-grade assault weapons that can out-gun our police officers
· Stop the sale of high capacity magazines of more than ten rounds
"Police Chief Jim Johnson and his public safety steam are working with Superintendent Dance's school security staff to conduct a comprehensive review of school safety in Baltimore County," said Kamenetz. "That group will be making specific recommendations in the near future, and State funding for school safety initiatives will be very important as we move forward."
County Executive Kamenetz also said that he will work with the delegation and the leadership in Annapolis to fund the County's transportation priorities:
· Expanded MARC Train Station in Middle River
· Improvements to Reisterstown Road and its associated intersections
· Improvements to I 695 and I 83
"We have serious work to do over the next 90 days,"