Monday, April 7, 2014

Got money for 5 fields? Great! Let's start with the high schools

At a time when there are such glaring needs, it's difficult to justify a luxury like Calvert Park. Let's see--the county is considering investing in 4 playing fields and 1 turf field there this year. That's 5 fields--hmmm, how many high schools are there in Cecil County? Bo Manor, Elkton, North East, Perryville, Rising Sun--that's 5. If this $2.6 million investment was spent on improving one field at each high school this year, imagine the impact it would have on our communities. And I'm not suggesting turf fields at any school--turf might be out of reach of Cecil County at this time.


This tweet from Rising Sun High School pretty much sums up this spring. Yes, it was a difficult winter and a wet spring but most high school fields were bare before that.
Part of the plan for Calvert Regional Park is to possibly use the existing three fields at Rising Sun High School to allow tournaments up to 12 total fields. I'm guessing no one has looked closely at those fields at Rising Sun. The playing surfaces can barely handle the use they get now let alone the additional abuse from tournaments.

Yes, we would be thrilled with 5 fields in Cecil County, but let's make improvements at fields we already use before investing in new ones.

Contact our Cecil County Council and Executive and let them know you support full funding of CCPS.

Tari Moore--County Executive--tmoore@ccgov.org
Alan McCarthy--Vice President--amccarthy@ccgov.org
Joyce Bowlsbey--jbowlsbey@ccgov.org
Michael Dunn--mdunn@ccgov.org
Diana Broomell--dbroomell@ccgov.org
Robert Hodge--President--rhodge@ccgov.org

Calvert Park: a Want or a Need?

"I know we need a new roof on the house but I really want that condo at the beach" Sounds crazy, right?

Our wannabe condo owner might defend his choice, "But I can make money off the condo by renting it when I'm not using it."

Uh huh. "So when will you replace the roof on the house that you live in year round?" I ask.

Our wannabe owner shrugs and casts his eyes to the ground.

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Let's talk about needs versus wants. In a time when money is tight, we have to make hard choices. It looks like our Cecil County government is struggling to determine what projects need to be funded versus those that they want to fund.


Need: Sufficient funding of small capital and capital projects of CCPS

Our county school facilities are in dire need of maintenance or replacement. We have an elementary school where students put out buckets in the classroom on rainy days and the gym floor is covered in 20 year old carpet that smells despite the valiant efforts of the maintenance team, a high school with a gym floor that is warped and must be replaced, and several of the athletic fields at our high schools are barely playable because they are not maintained.


Want: A new recreational park

$2,587,000 is included in the proposed FY 2015 Cecil County Budget for the creation of Calvert Regional Park in Rising Sun on the site that was known as the MacMillan Farm. That amount includes the creation of 4 multi-purpose playing fields and the installation of one turf field.

Hypothesis: A new park would bring revenue

Cecil County Parks and Recreation officials project that Calvert Regional Park would be a sports marketing hub in the area, attracting multi-day tournaments whose participants would stay at local hotels and eat at local restaurants.  But I doubt that our current tourism infrastructure of only 3 modest hotels within 5 miles of the fields and a handful of restaurants, could truly support a tournament large enough to make a financial difference to the county.

Before spending county funds because we want a regional park, we should make sure the needs of our schools and communities are met.

Contact our Cecil County Council and Executive and let them know you support full funding of CCPS.

Tari Moore--County Executive--tmoore@ccgov.org
Alan McCarthy--Vice President--amccarthy@ccgov.org
Joyce Bowlsbey--jbowlsbey@ccgov.org
Michael Dunn--mdunn@ccgov.org
Diana Broomell--dbroomell@ccgov.org
Robert Hodge--President--rhodge@ccgov.org

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Funding Education: Letter to the Editor

My letter to the editor of the Rising Sun Herald, published 4/1/14:

Our county school system is at a critical turning point. Without adequate funding from the Cecil County government, Cecil County Public Schools will continue to struggle to meet the educational needs of our students in buildings and facilities that are crumbling around them. The county’s citizens must contact our county council and executive now to let them know we support the FY 2015 budget requests from CCPS.

School budget flat while county contribution declines

This crisis didn’t happen overnight. In 2001, CCPS received 51% of its budget from Cecil County; at that time, the state average was 57%. In FY 2014, the county contributed only 42% of the CCPS budget, while the state average was 50%. Cecil County currently ranks 21st out of 24 school systems in the state for per student funding by the county and state. Our children deserve better. Despite these gaps in funding, CCPS has worked diligently to provide students with quality educations. They’ve reduced positions and health care costs, depleted fund balance reserves, and deferred $47 million in maintenance projects. But the reserves have been depleted and those projects can no longer be delayed--A dollar can only be stretched so far and sidewalks and roofs can only be patched so many times.

Let the County Council and Executive know you support CCPS funding

CCPS submitted the FY 2015 budget request earlier this year. County Executive Tari Moore returned the budget with $1.8 million cut from the original request. CCPS is resubmitting the request with over $500,000 cut from its original request. Those of us who support education funding need to let our voices be heard. If we do nothing, a very vocal group will encourage the county government to continue this pattern of underfunding into the foreseeable future. Attend an upcoming county council meeting on 4/1, 4/15, 5/6, or 5/20 (vote) or contact the Cecil County Council and Executive in advance of those meetings. Support public education in Cecil County. If not now, when?

My Civics Lesson: Local governments working together for their communities

When I attended the Cecil County Council meeting on March 18 to speak in support of funding the Cecil County Public Schools FY 2015 Budget and specific athletic facility projects at Perryville High School, I had no idea if my actions would accomplish much more than lessening some personal guilt for not having "done more."
Tuesday night, just two weeks later, I got a first hand lesson on how elected officials from multiple municipalities can make positive things happen and how community members can use their own unique stories and skills to accomplish common goals.
While the process to adequately fund CCPS has just begun, I'm taking this as a sign that we might all be able to pull the same rope and make good things happen faster than we ever imagined.

Elected officials making things happen

Last weekend, Perryville Commissioner Michelle Linkey and Mayor Jim Eberhardt reached out to me to see how they could help and then things really started happening. I honestly didn't think of contacting town officials because I thought the battle was between the CCPS and Cecil County...shows you what I know.

By Monday night, Council President Robert Hodge toured the school's track with PHS track coach and teacher Jake Moore and Mr. Eberhardt.

And a lot of work must have happened on Tuesday because by the time I arrived at Tuesday night's County Council meeting, Mr. Eberhardt had bill 2014-13 in hand. Introduced by Mr. Hodge on behalf of County Executive Tari Moore, the bill would allow replacement of the school's track to begin after graduation in June. Here's a link to the bill--"Budget Ordinance FY 2014 – Board of Education – Perryville High School Track Replacement"

Lots of support from PHS families and area residents

Without the overwhelming support from our families and other concerned residents, this wouldn't have happened. I'm afraid to know exactly how many letters and emails were sent in support of CCPS and PHS in particular but there must have been quite a few. And about 10 members of the community showed up at the County Council meeting, several of whom spoke about their own perspective on the situation.

Next steps towards a new track

While I'm thrilled about the track bill, there is still much to do before that can become a reality. We need a group to attend the April 15 public hearing for the bill and we need those who can't attend to contact the County Council and Executive to voice their support for the bill (and overall budget funding for CCPS).

Remember, this track replacement is one of many projects that CCPS has asked the council to fund; there are still many facilities and fields that are in dire need of replacement or maintenance.

  • Tari Moore--County Executive--tmoore@ccgov.org
  • Alan McCarthy--Vice President--amccarthy@ccgov.org
  • Joyce Bowlsbey--jbowlsbey@ccgov.org
  • Michael Dunn--mdunn@ccgov.org
  • Diana Broomell--dbroomell@ccgov.org
  • Robert Hodge--President--rhodge@ccgov.org

Monday, March 31, 2014

Education funding for Cecil County is 21st out of 24 Maryland systems

Bloated...wasteful...these are words that others in Cecil County have used to describe the Cecil County Public Schools budget. Bloated...wasteful...overused words that can only be spoken by those who haven't been involved in our local school system in recent years. I can tell you I've never seen waste in CCPS spending and I take it a little personally when such unfounded statements are made.

Let's look at the facts of Cecil County's funding of education

  • The CCPS budget has been flat for the past 5 years ($175.2 million in FY14).
  • Cecil County’s contribution to the CCPS budget has been going down for the past few years and only in FY14 has it come back to almost what it was in 2009.
  • In 2014, only 42% of the CCPS budget came from Cecil County. The state average is 50%. This is down from the 51% we received in 2001 (state average was 57% then). The county has a history of underfunding CCPS.
  • CCPS has reduced 175 positions from 2010-15 for a savings of $12.5 million. A total of $35.5 million has been saved over that time by CCPS with these reductions, changes to health care benefits, and other savings over that time.

Source: CCPS FY 2015 Budget Request 

Support adequate funding of public education in Cecil County

Let our elected officials know that you value the work of CCPS and encourage them to provide adequate funding of our schools. If not now, when?

What Can You Do?

Contact the County Executive and members of the County Council and encourage them to support the CCPS budget. Click here for contact information

  • Tari Moore--County Executive--tmoore@ccgov.org
  • Alan McCarthy--Vice President--amccarthy@ccgov.org
  • Joyce Bowlsbey--jbowlsbey@ccgov.org
  • Michael Dunn--mdunn@ccgov.org
  • Diana Broomell--dbroomell@ccgov.org
  • Robert Hodge--President--rhodge@ccgov.org