Without a doubt the citizens of Kent County, and for that matter of Maryland, are in favor of any plan that provides potential improvements in education that allows for students: 1) to be fully prepared for the ‘real world’ after their education; and 2) to be ‘work-force competitive’ regionally, nationally, and globally.
That being said, taxpaying citizens want that plan to be within a reasonable and affordable financial budget.
High regard and appreciation is expressed to the Kirwan Commission for their valued effort in this multi-year, multi-million-dollar study, its final report and recommendations: The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, aka Kirwan.
The Kirwan Commission missed the point about being financially reasonable and affordable. Kirwan is turning out to be a very expensive unfunded mandate Legislated into being by the Maryland General Assembly in 2021.
Originally, back in late 2019, the announced price tag for The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future/Kirwan was just under an overwhelming $40Billion spread out over a 10-year implementation period. As a reference point only, with approximately 2.2 million Maryland households, that calculates to over $18,000/MD household.
Most are not familiar with the forecasted costs of Kirwan for Kent County; they were published in a January 2022 Fiscal Impact document by the Department of Legislative Services [DLS], link below.
Throughout this document Kent County, one of the least wealthy counties in MD, consistently last or next to last is most wealth metrics, is specifically and frequently pointed out as a jurisdiction that would see significant financial impact implementing and funding Kirwan. Furthermore, reams of costly administrative red tape and compliance burdens are also generated by Kirwan’s Accountability and Implementation Plan reporting requirements.
The initial Department of Legislative Services [DLS] estimated funding forecast for Kent County, adding up on a By-Year basis the estimated ‘additional’ funding required for Kirwan from FY24 to FY34, is $43.7Million more than the amount of funding required without Kirwan. $43.7Million may not sound like much, but this is just for Kirwan. The County has a lot of other ever-increasing expenditures Kent County taxpayers have to pay for.
* For every $300,000 our Kent County requires in revenue to fund expenses and projects, the County needs $0.01 / $100 assessment in real estate tax rate.
* Taking literary license I round up that $43.7Million funding estimate to $45Million to make the math easy. Albeit, with significant realization, the DLS funding estimates are grossly underestimated, with real actual funding being anywhere from 3-to-6 times the DLS Jan 2022 estimates, across the state on a by-county basis. The DLS acknowledges funding estimates for Kirwan are a constantly moving target, affirming Kirwan will cost more, much more than originally forecasted.
* $45,000,000 / $300,000 = a real estate tax rate of $1.50 just to fund Kirwan implementation; albeit, to reiterate, which we now know is a gross underestimation.
* Add the above real estate tax rate of $1.50 just to fund Kirwan implementation to the current County real estate tax rate shown on your recently received real estate tax bill, $1.022, and the Kent County real estate tax rate for all expenses, including funding Kirwan implementation, goes up to $2.522 / $100 assessment.
* Financial impact of funding Kirwan implementation example #1; if your current 2024 r/e tax bill is, say, around $2,400/yr, and your family budgets $200/mo to pay it, in order for the County to fund Kirwan and all the other expenses the County needs money for, your r/e tax dollar amount will increase to around $6,000/yr, requiring your family to budget around $500/mo to pay it, a $300/mo increase.
* Financial impact of funding Kirwan implementation example #2; if your current 2024 r/e tax bill is, say, around $3,600/yr, and your family budgets $300/mo to pay it, in order for the County to fund Kirwan and all the other expenses the County needs money for, your r/e tax dollar amount will increase to around $9,000/yr, requiring your family to budget around $750/mo to pay it, a $450/mo increase.
* Financial impact of funding Kirwan implementation example #3; if your current 2024 r/e tax bill is, say, around $4,800/yr, and your family budgets $400/mo to pay it, in order for the County to fund Kirwan and all the other expenses the County needs money for, your r/e tax dollar amount will increase to around $12,000/yr, requiring your family to budget around $1,000/mo to pay it, a $600/mo increase.
And so on.
Kent County taxpayers are about to be financially blindsided.
Kent County continually discusses the need for affordable housing. Real estate taxes are part of a family’s budget plan; we are trying to entice young families to move-here, stay-here. Real estate tax increases to fund Kirwan will also bring crushing financial stress to not only the 12% of Kent County’s population that is under the poverty level, but also to the significant number of families living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Question: Who among us would decide to fully upgrade our homes without first and foremost, being prudent and practical people, establish a budget for how much we can afford, and how we are going to pay for it? No one! But that is exactly what the Kirwan Commission did.
Put succinctly The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future/Kirwan, while a great education program, is a monetary monstrosity that is prohibitively expensive and unsustainable not only for Kent County but Statewide.
Asking our Annapolis leadership, Governor Moore, Senate President Ferguson, and Speaker of the House Delegate Jones, to temporarily pause the implementation of Kirwan to review its costs and financial impact, and adjust accordingly to make it affordable to fund, is a reasonable request.