Since the Anne Arundel County Council adopted its fiscal year 2013 budget in May, many residents have contacted Patch wanting to know how they personally benefit from the distribution of county revenues.
Many have voiced concerns that South County “gets the short end of the stick” when it comes to county funding—an issue Councilman Jerry Walker (R-7th District) said he specifically wanted to address.
“One of the biggest issues I hear from residents is that [areas in South County] are the last ones to get everything, like the turf field at Southern High—the idea that we’re forgotten about,” Walker said.
However, following the adoption of the recent budget, more money has been allocated to South County than in any budget in recent memory, according to Walker. The councilman said he personally worked closely with Anne Arundel Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Maxwell to discuss the allocation of funds within the school system.
Included in the fiscal year 2013 budget are funds for a new parking lot at Southern High, lights at Southern Middle, complete renovations of Lothian Elementary and money to address “pressure points” at overcrowded schools.
Addressing class pressure points
“I heard mostly from [south county] elementary school parents that class sizes were too big,” Walker said.
In the final budget hearing at Old Mill High on May 15, hundreds of concerned parents, teachers and faculty packed an auditorium to speak to the County Council—many of whom were from South County, Walker said.
“I think there were more people from District 7 schools than there were any other district. I had parents from Tracey’s, Shady Side, Deale, Crofton, Edgewater elementary schools and other South River feeder schools,” Walker said.
After the State Board of Education found that the county did not meet its maintenance of effort requirements in the fiscal year 2012 budget, the Anne Arundel school system received $12 million for the money it was shorted the previous year. With that money, Maxwell will have 128 new positions to address overcrowding. However, how those positons are allocated is still being determined.
Regional assistant superintendents meet weekly throughout the summer to analyze current data and determine where the positions are needed most, said Bob Mosier, Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) spokesman.
About 75 class size-reduction positions are reserved to address overcrowding, but some will be withheld at the start of the year.
“We hold some of those positions back to deal with unexpected enrollment surges,” Mosier said. “For instance, kindergartners, you never know about. That’s where the biggest surprises come from.”
Walker said residents should continue to contact their school board representatives in order to secure new teacher positions at South County schools.
“I can’t tell them what school to put the teachers in, [the school system] are the ones that know the numbers,” Walker said. “The ball is in their court as to what schools get the teachers we allocate to them.”
Game time at Southern High and Middle schools
The fiscal year 2013 budget allocates money for a parking lot at Southern High and lights for Southern Middle’s athletic fields.
Currently, the home of the Bulldogs has nothing more than a “makeshift” lot that turns into a swamp on rainy days, Walker said.
The only paved lot on campus is right next to the school. But ever since Southern got a turf field, more and more activities are taking place at the school, meaning more and more people make the half-mile walk, on a path with no lights on sometimes steep angles, to attend the events.
“Before, the field was restricted to football and lacrosse—it wasn’t widely used. But with the turf field, use went up from 100 games to about 400—it quadrupled,” Walker said. “It became a glaringly obvious problem.”
The lack of a parking lot also led to compliance issues with the Americans with Disabilities Act since handicapped visitors had difficulties getting to and from the parking lot, Walker said.
“I heard testimony at the hearing at Old Mill that said, ‘I missed more than half of my kids’ games because I can’t get my scooter down that hill,’” Walker said.
The councilman said it was a “huge” issue for many residents in South County and that he was proud to deliver on his promise to get the school a parking lot.
Check back Friday at 12 p.m. for Part 2 of our in-depth look at how the budget affects south county, specifically Lothian and Edgewater elementary schools.