EASTON — While the Kirwan Commission’s proposal for improving public education would increase education funding in Maryland, among the five Mid-Shore counties, Talbot would be hit the hardest.
The proposal calls for $2.8 billion more in state funding, with local jurisdictions pitching in $1.2 billion, by fiscal year 2030 to address “funding inequities presently existing in our state, based on income, race and ethnicities,” according to the commission’s chairman, William “Brit” Kirwan.
According to the commission’s Formula Funding Work Group recommendations, over a ten-year period Talbot County’s contribution of an additional $21.5 million would be phased in by 2030, with the state kicking in $5.3 million.
Talbot County Council Member Laura Price is concerned about the impact on county taxpayers. She said the actual cost is much higher.
Price serves on the executive board of directors for the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo). She is chairman of MACo’s Budget & Tax Committee and also serves on MACo’s Legislative Initiatives Committee.
To understand more of the Kirwan Commission’s work, she attended all but one of the commission’s Formula Funding Work Group’s meetings from July to October.
The work group was created to inform the Kirwan Commission and make recommendations.
“Being in the room helped me understand how people on the committee were thinking based on the questions they asked,” Price said in an Oct. 16 interview.
“There was almost no conversation for how the state was going to pay for their piece,” Price said. “The vast majority of the conversation was about the counties’ ability to pay and how much effort each county was putting forth.”
Price said she wasn’t required to attend the work group meetings. “I took my own time as a MACo representative,” she said.
During the eight meetings she attended, Price said, “(The work group) never showed one piece of paper for how much counties would be responsible for until Oct. 8.”
“They adjusted the numbers at 9 a.m. one week later and expected a vote by lunchtime (on Oct. 15),” Price said. She said the work group was mostly comprised of Democrats and educators.
MACo’s Conduit Street blog stated in an Oct. 15 post, “The bottom line to counties: fully fund the “local share” (as implied by local wealth) of the full range of new state programs — phased in to total $9.3 billion by FY 2030.”
“The state will stagger and phase in the various elements of the Kirwan funding plan, but reach its goal by fiscal year 2030. The counties will be required to fund their share of each of these new programs, a more stringent and demanding requirement than current law,” Conduit Street stated.
Price said the work group’s numbers are misleading.
Talbot County’s current education funding is $42.5 million. According to the state’s current funding formula, which includes maintenance of effort (MOE) and an escalator formula, Talbot County’s expected education funding would increase to 53.7 million.
However, according to Price, the Kirwan model would expect Talbot’s contribution to be $75 million, with all jurisdictions paying $9.3 billion by 2030.
The funding formula draws from two major funding streams, property and income taxes. Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions all are subject to MOE and escalator increases, but the amount each county and Baltimore City would pay, and the state’s contribution, would be based on a formula designed to provide equitable funding to all students.
Talbot County, considered “wealthy” by the Kirwan formula, would be expected to pay an additional 48.1 cents per 100 dollars of assessed property value by 2030, according to Price.
According to a table published on the Kirwan Commission’s website, Caroline County’s additional education would be $5.2 million with the state’s share as $19.7 million; Dorchester County’s share would be nearly $1 million more, with the state adding an additional $27 million; Kent County’s share would be an added $8.6 million, with the state contributing 2.6 million.
No additional spending would be expected of Queen Anne’s County, but the state would pay $14.5 million.
With Talbot County’s higher net taxable income, just a small percentage of the county’s residents pay more than 30% of the income tax. However the “median” household income ($65,595) is nearly 20% below the state average ($78,916), according to Price.
With a high number of retirees in the county, the working class bears the lion’s share of the tax burden, Price wrote in a Sept. 1 commentary in The Star Democrat.
So far, the proposal is just that. It heads to a state commission, then to lawmakers for the January legislative session.
Reporter Kayla Rivas contributed to this story.