Public testimony to support County Council Bill 42-2019
September 18, 2019
My name is Chao Wu, a board member of Howard County Board Education. My colleage already testified on behalf of the board. Here I am testifying as a general citizen.
I applaud our council members Yung, Rigby introducing this bill and Jones and Walsh co-sponsoring it. I also thank state delegate Vanessa Atterbery to lead and enable this bill in the state. I want to thank many community volunteers who have been advocating on this bill.
This is a long over-due bill that the county is waiting for. Our school system is facing a deep crisis, both in the operating budget and capital budget. We should all work together to address them little by little.
In the operating budget side, for FY 2021, we need extra 60 million dollars on top of FY 2020 approved budget to meet our obligations and another 37 million dollars to pay back the health care fund deficit. Without that, we will continue the same pain as last fiscal year in this May. We had to surplus teachers, cut programs and find ways to save every penny to balance the school budget.
In the capital budget side, overcrowded schools, widely deployed portable classrooms, all of them need money to repair or replace. We want to make sure High School 13 will be built on time. We want to make sure Talbott Springs Elementary School replacement and Hammond High School renovation will be back on the agenda as soon as possible. We also need another high school in Elkridge, HS 14, to balance our capacity. We need another Turf Valley elementary school to deal with fast student growth there. We also need renovate St John’s Lane Elementary School, one of the oldest schools.
Our school system mostly depends on local funds. With the proposed increase of the development impact fee, the county is expecting $150 million additional funds over the next 10 years. We wish we will begin to receive another extra 15 million dollars per year, starting next year to start our delayed capital projects.
Despite these huge difficulties we are facing, I am deeply appreciative of our teachers, staff and management team in the school. They are working together and help each student. Every light is on, even the room temperature is one degree colder or warmer, not so comfortable, to reduce school energy cost.
Please pass this bill. Thanks.