Blair Lee’s comments regarding the The Baltimore Sun’s editorial stance on maintenance of effort, teachers’ unions and the state constitution are right on target. I concur with Mr. Lee’s view that maintenance of effort is not mandated by the constitution (“Make me wanna holler,” May 18).
As a member of the House of Delegates 25 years ago, I sponsored legislation, which was enacted, that strengthened the maintenance-of-effort law and have long been aware of the spirit of the law that local government should use state dollars to supplement, not supplant, county funding.
The law, however, runs headlong into the harsh reality in counties such as Anne Arundel, where over the past six years the board of education budget has increased 17 percent while all other county agencies’ budgets, in the aggregate, have decreased 7 percent. Clearly, my administration has a responsibility to adequately fund all agencies of county government to ensure that the quality of all governmental services is maintained.
In the recently submitted fiscal 2013 budget, we again maximized the revenue permissible under the voter-imposed tax cap in order to help fund essential services. The failure to raise the rate as far as the cap allows, as was done by two previous administrations, would reduce the revenues available in future years.
The budget I recently submitted to the council included money for 62 additional teachers and funds the entire school board request, minus nearly $34 million for employee raises. We cannot in good conscience fund raises for school employees when the most that can be done for other county workers is to end their furloughs. Last year, when county employees faced salary reductions for the second year in a row, the school board insisted on giving pay raises to school employees, despite the strong opposition of the administration and the council.
The additional money sought by the school board for 2013 is clearly for salary increases. School officials will assert that they negotiated salary increases in “good faith,” but how is it good faith when they were told prior to the negotiations that the county would not fund these pay increases?
It should be noted that since the introduction of the Thornton Commission’s “Bridge to Excellence” program, Anne Arundel County has increased its unrestricted funding for K-12 education by more than $194 million, and a total of $207 million in excess of the minimum funding required during that decade. This translates into $1.94 for every $1 the county was required to provide under state law.
I agree with the members of the General Assembly who voted against the changes to the state’s maintenance-of-effort law in the recent, regular legislative session. The legislation sets a dangerous precedent by allowing the state to invade county tax revenue and use it to its will rather than respect the autonomy of local government decision-making.
John R. Leopold, Annapolis
The letter writer, a Republican, is Anne Arundel County executive.