Worcester County commissioner raises concerns on possible new formula for school funding across Md.

CAMBRIDGE, Md. – We kick off tonight with a major conference that is happening right in our back yard to better our community and our state’s future.

The Maryland Association of Counties Conference draws in over 600 leaders across the state and together they go over innovative ideas to continue growth.

47 ABC spoke to several county councils and commissioners who say that there is one topic that seems to be alarming at MACo. It’s the Kirwan Commission, which was created by legislation back in 2016. The Commission’s goal is to determine the formula for school funding across Maryland for the next decade.

The final report has yet to be released but some information has been made public, which includes the $4.6 billion cost. And while education is at the forefront for many, the billion dollar number at stake can be alarming.

Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino tells 47 ABC that the Kirwan Commission is looking at education innovation at a state level and will determine a formula for school funding across the state. And Bertino says, he’s concerned for Worcester County. “Worcester county pays the highest per student costs roughly $18,000 than any other county in the state. It also gets the least amount of money for education across the state,” Bertino tells us.

He says the state education wealth formula is skewed and not reflective of the County’s demographics, since the formula is based on property assessments. As a result, Worcester comes out as one of the wealthiest counties in the state because of Ocean City’s value. “If you go from Berlin south, our poverty goes up significantly, we have 45% of our students on free or reduced meal program.”

Because of this formula, the county is responsible for a majority of the Board of Education Budget. “Worcester county is responsible 75-76% board of education budget, state picks up I think 22% and the rest comes in other sources.”

So if the Kirwan Commission comes into play, it could be a detriment to their costs. “If they are implemented, what is the funding solution for that? Whether it be county responsibility, state responsibility or combination of the two. We have some grave concerns as to being pushed to the max for affordable funding where frankly we are having trouble now,” Bertino tells us.

But Worcester county isn’t the only one concerned. Senator Addie Eckardt tells 47 ABC, “There a lot of questions in my mind that I have in my mind and of course it will be presented to us what the initial recommendations are. We will be very attentive to not only to the local jurisdictions and what is going to be the cost to the locals.”

47 ABC also spoke to members of the Wicomico and Dorchester county councils, both expressed concerns about the Kirwan Commission as well. Dorchester County councilmember Ricky Travers says,

“They’ve only put a price tag on it but they haven’t figured out who’s going to pay for it yet, so we have to be very active being out in front saying woah wait a minute, you can’t buy Cadillacs from everybody, we have to start here and see how we work it out.”

The findings should be released as legislators go back into session and they are expected to review the policy aspects of their findings.

From there, it’s up to legislators as to what parts of the findings are implemented and if they are, they’ll have to determine the funding solution.

Senator-Elect Mary Beth Carozza also weighed in and said her primary focus with Kirwan is to ensure fair funding formulas for our shore counties.

Categories: Education, Local News, Maryland