Baltimore, MD - Apr. 12 -At the stroke of midnight on Monday, the 2013 session of the Maryland General Assembly came to a close.
The last week of the session was focused around efforts to protect property owned by non-profit entities (including schools and places of worship) from being hit with high fees for stormwater management. For the last number of years the state has been working to restore the waterways and clean up the Chesapeake Bay. One cause for the polluted waterways is the poor handling of storm/rainwater run off before it ends up in the Bay and waterways. Many properties have been proactive over the last several years installing better drainage systems on their property, but many still have not. The state implemented fees are based on the amount of impervious (non-water penetrating) surfaces on the property. Therefore facilities with large roof and paved areas will be hit the hardest. Those of us advocating for the non-profits argued that the suggested fees if they remain uncapped will cause significant hardships to the many vulnerable non-profits which do not produce revenue. Those fees will end up as an additional tax on the members and supporters of those organizations. Legislation in Annapolis to implement a cap or an exemption did not prove successful. As the fee schedules are at the discretion of the local governments, we are working with the councils of cities/counties with Jewish populations, trying to garner the necessary protections for non-profits before the fee schedules are finalized.       
Nonpublic School Advocacy: As has been reported in these lines, the nonpublic school coalition took a year off this year from pursuing the scholarship tax credit legislation opting to focus on securing additional immediate funds for the nonpublic schools for the purchase of education related materials. Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley allocated an additional 25% for the program and then later added funds in the supplemental budget. Despite some pushback by opponents to slash the increases, the additional funding was secured by session's end. The total allocation for the textbook/technology program now increases from the old $4.4 million to the new standard of $6.1 million.
However, in addition to the textbook/technology program, the nonpublic schools were treated to a brand new allocation of funds and from an unlikely source. Thanks to vision and leadership of Senator Ed DeGrange, an Anne Arundel County democrat and one of Maryland's few "school choice champions" (and the annual sponsor of the scholarship tax credit bill), an allocation in the state's capital budget was made to provide funds for the nonpublic schools to improve their facilities and implement greater security methods. This new allocation of $3.5 million will operate alongside the textbook program, to enable the schools who participate in the textbook program to have easier access to the new funds.
This vital addition brings the total of funds granted by the Maryland General Assembly to the nonpublic schools to an unprecedented $9.6 million. While that total will not yet solve the tuition crisis, it will nonetheless be a bounty of good fortune to private schools around MD.