Maryland officials voted Wednesday to spend an additional $161.5 million on school construction projects, bringing the total to $349.2 million for the upcoming school year.
That's a 32 percent bump over the current fiscal year, for which the Maryland Board of Public Works doled out $264.5 million across the state.
With the newly approved funds, Montgomery County is set to receive $43.1 million to build and update schools, for an increase of $18.4 million over the state's initial offer in January. Prince George's County is slated to get an additional $16.7 million atop its initial $23.6 million.
"We can't afford to have our students fall behind in their education because of substandard learning conditions," said Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, a member of the Board of Public Works with Gov. Martin O'Malley and State Treasurer Nancy Kopp.
But don't expect to see new buildings cropping up all over the Washington suburbs: The state allocates additional funds every spring, and local governments estimate how much they will get in their budgets.
For example, Montgomery received several million more dollars than the $40 million officials were expecting, but that just means the county government gets to spend $3 million less on school construction and budget it elsewhere.
"I know the County Council and other government agencies are struggling to make ends meet, and we just have to do the best with what we have," said James Song, director of facilities management for Montgomery County Public Schools.
As the school system's enrollment booms, Montgomery is using 350 portable classrooms this year and will add 54 for next school year. About 90 percent of portables are at elementary schools, Song said.
In January, County Executive Ike Leggett proposed cutting the schools' construction budget by 3 percent with an offer of $1.36 billion over six years, less than the $1.49 billion requested by the schools. Council members voted last week to restore some of that funding and are scheduled to hold a final vote on the county's budget Thursday.