Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced Wednesday that the county will advance the state's share of school construction funding to expedite center air conditioning installation to all remaining elementary and middle schools by 2017.
The remaining schools were scheduled to receive air conditioning upgrades over the next three fiscal years. That process was delayed after Gov. Hogan said he would not advance state funding.
In 2011, Baltimore County began a $1.3 billion "Schools for our Future" program. The county is constructing 15 new schools and 11 additions, while adding seats to eliminate overcrowding in elementary schools. During the construction, a backlog of 90 schools without central air is eliminated.
Under the current program, Baltimore County has invested two county tax dollars for every one state dollar received for school construction. In the fiscal year 2017 budget, $121.8 million was proposed to forward-fund the school construction program. The cost of the remaining air conditioning updates is $83 million, with $45 million due from the state and $39 million from Baltimore County.
The county now proposes to advance the state's share of the remaining $45 million expense in order to complete central air upgrades in every county school not slated for replacement or major renovation by 2017. High school facilities are expected to be completed by 2018 because of the size of the facilities.
"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," said Kamenetz in a statement. "Despite the fiscally irresponsible suggestion by Governor Hogan that Baltimore County waste money on temporary window air conditioning units, we insist on installing central air systems. Last week, Governor Hogan withheld $10 million of State funds as ransom so that we would capitulate and install window units. It's ridiculous that we have to advance the State's share of funding to do the job right the first time."
After factoring the costs to bid electrical upgrades and state procurement costs for window units, Baltimore County officials believe they can install central air in the same time frame it would take to install window units.
The remaining schools to receive central air upgrades, subject to county approval are:
- Franklin High School
- Golden Ring Middle School
- Kenwood High School
- Middle River Middle School
- Southwest Academy
- Stemmers Run Middle School