In a letter addressed to the Board of Education President Patrick Hess this week, County Council President Billy Boniface expressed concern the Board of Ed was moving ahead with work on Schucks Road Elementary before proper funding had been established for the new school.
In the single-page letter, which is dated Tuesday, Boniface requested the Board of Education “hold off on any further expenditure at this site” until Councilman Dick Slutzky can finish his investigation and provide a report on the project.
From the letter, Boniface wrote:
“It has come to the Council’s attention that the Board is moving forward with expenditures at the Schucks Road School site that have been apportioned by the Council but do not actually exist until the County Executive requests a future bond sale and the Council approves it. The Council has concerns about proceeding with any capital project in this manner and, we request that you hold off on any further expenditures at this site until Councilman Slutzky can provide the Council with a report. I would then request time to discuss the Council’s concerns with you.”
This letter begs many questions, most immediately – How can the Board of Education spend funds that don’t exist?
Unlike the operating budget, in which funds can be moved around within broad categories, the capital budget is divided into projects, i.e. Bel Air High School modernization, Southampton Middle School HVAC replacement or a new school like Campus Hills Elementary , a.k.a Schucks Road – (as an aside, while all this is going on the Board of Education is busy reopening the decision on naming the school so they can rename it after Dr. Haas.) Transfers of funds between capital projects must be approved by the County Council. So funds intended for Red Pump (which the Board of Education decided to halt) cannot be used for Campus Hills since there has been no request by the Board to the Council to approve a transfer.
Is the Board of Education “forward funding” the Schucks/Campus/Haas project, and if so, where did it get the money to pay for the plans, design contracts and the presentation made by Site Resources, Inc. at the Development Advisory Committee meeting on this project? The money to pay Site Resources had to come from somewhere. And how much money are we talking about?
If the County Executive doesn’t request the bond sale (referred to in the letter) or if the Council doesn’t approve it, will the Board of Education have to eat whatever they’ve spent to date, when its budget is already stretched thin?
Finally, is this the way the Board of Education routinely does business or did they get caught the one and only time they raided the cookie jar?