Weast's Letter to Grasmick Irks MoCo Council
A letter from Montgomery Schools Superintendent Jerry D. Weast to State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick has sent shockwaves through the council office building in Rockville. Weast wrote to Grasmick last week to say that he feared "the loss of millions in state education aid" in penalties because of the County Council's budget maneuver to plug a $79.5 million hole.
The hole was created when the State Board of Education denied the county's request to reduce its share of education funding below the level required by the state. To close the gap, the council signed off on a plan to shift to the school system the cost of debt payments on school facilities.
Weast is concerned that the state might take a dim view of that accounting maneuver and he has asked for Grasmick's guidance in the letter. Weast also told Grasmick that he worries the council might ask the school system to reimburse the county for debt service in future years, a scenario he deemed "completely unacceptable." Leggett specified that the $79.5.million debt payment would be a one-time thing. But the council included no such language in the final budget.
Bill Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education, said Grasmick was seeking legal counsel on how to proceed.
Council member Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring), a former school board member, said she and other council members were shocked by Weast's letter.
"We were all on the same page. Everyone thought we were straight," she said.
The letter essentially "hangs out a neon sign that says Montgomery County broke the law," she said. "He is playing a very dangerous game."
Christopher Dean Hopkins
June 11, 2009; 9:14 AM ET
Categories: Ann Marimow
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