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Petitioning Montgomery County Council

MCPS Overcrowding and the SSP

Montgomery County Council's November 15 vote on the Subdivision Staging Policy stands to eliminate ANY disincentives to build until schools are over 120% of their capacity. The Council plans to discontinue the School Facility Payment that is currently charged on development when schools are between 105-120% of capacity.

They say they'll make up the money with a higher impact tax. But that does nothing to discourage development or prevent worsening overcrowding.

There are some a good changes in the works, but the County Council continues to view the SSP as a revenue model and not as a staging policy. THERE IS NOTHING IN PLACE TO STEM DEVELOPMENT UNTIL SCHOOLS REACH 120% OF CAPACITY. We ask that they postpone the vote scheduled for November 15th and address the the MCPS crisis more fully. Our schools cannot be left to struggle for the next four years (when this policy will be up for review again). MCPS has NO answers and can't clean up the Council's mess.

While individual school tests are a step in the right direction, more must be done to ensure that our schools don’t get worse before they get better. MCPS capacity and renovation projects can’t keep pace with development. Capital improvement projects that will be completed in 4 or 5 years cannot be counted as adequate capacity, leaving schools and their staff to cope with increasing enrollment in the interim. Impact taxes aren’t an adequate economic incentive to put our children through this. School impact taxes account for only 12% of the CIP funding, and they do nothing to cover incremental operational costs – busing, staffing, materials, etc. – all of which are a net burden to MCPS, and not a boon at all. For these reasons we propose the following.

- Lower the building moratorium threshold for residential dwellings. By eliminating the School Facility Payment, you are effectively endorsing development when schools are over capacity. There MUST be a disincentive to build when our schools are full. As proposed, the SSP removes the trigger to slow growth when schools are between 105% and 120% of capacity. Replace that trigger with something else.

- Eliminate placeholders altogether. Placeholders add artificial capacity, and when placeholder projects are prioritized, other much needed projects are pushed down in the queue. Placeholders do nothing for the students in the schools, and only serve to facilitate development.

- Decrease the time horizon for testing. MCPS has a terrible track record forecasting this far into the future. How can we base ANY decisions data that is proven beyond a doubt to be unreliable? Furthermore, subdivision development moves much faster than MCPS improvements. So not only is our enrollment forecast more accurate for a 2-year time frame, but we can assess the actual capacity available to accommodate subdivisions in the pipeline.

- Eliminate school impact tax exemptions on residential development. Schools are struggling across the county. There aren’t enough funds to fix them. There is no justification for waiving school impact taxes on ANY residential construction.

- Lower seat-number capacity thresholds. Many schools cannot physically handle 110 or 180 seat deficits.

- Prioritize school size and new sites. Recommended school sizes (elementary schools 450-750, middles schools at 1,200 and high schools at 2,400) and class ratios should be recognized and followed. Prioritize new sites over expansions. No school should be in the position that Ashburton Elementary School is in today.

- Lastly, restore the SSP's prior name, the Growth Policy, and revert to biannual review.

 

 

 

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