Wicomico Council plans Saturday sit-down with state lawmakers

A letter that will go to state lawmakers, asking them to approve a referendum that will decide how school board members are chosen, will be discussed at the annual  legislative breakfast Saturday.

The letter was discussed at a recent Wicomico County Council meeting, and there was talk about penning a draft, but that hasn’t yet been done, said County Councilman Marc Kilmer.

“We’ll be discussing this issue with the county’s legislative delegation … we want to make sure they are on board with what we are proposing before we officially sign off on it,” Kilmer said.

The breakfast is scheduled for 8 a.m. in the Da Nang Room at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center.

If a referendum is approved by state lawmakers, voters will decide if they want an elected or appointed school board or a hybrid version.

The last option would mean that, of the seven members on the school board, two would be appointed by the County Council and five would be elected by voters.

The legislative meeting will begin with a brief overview of the county, followed by discussion about the school board.

Also on the agenda, concerning education, is maintenance of effort, school construction and the Cade formula. The formula is used for the distribution of funds to community colleges in Maryland. It’s named for late state Sen. John A. Cade.

Highway user revenues will be discussed under the “fiscal matters” portion of the agenda, along with disparity grants and zero waste mandate.

Concerning the local economy, views will be exchanged on the sprinkler mandate, Perdue Stadium matching grant and standards for the board of Elections.

Last month, Sen. Jim Mathias said he expects legislators will proceed with the referendum. The 2016 legislative session begins in mid-January.

Mathias said he’s pleased County Council members hosted public hearings about a referendum. He said he’ll review the final letter, then submit it.

“My problem is not with a referendum or with an elected school board. I asked for public hearings to engage the public. Regardless of what some people may have said, when the request came forward with their language last year, I don’t believe it had the public engagement it should have had,” the senator said.

“These are reasonable minds at work here and that’s all I can ask,” Mathias said.

Although each Council member probably has a personal preference, Kilmer said the council, as a unit, takes the stand that it is best for voters to decide.

“There has been a movement in Wicomico County the last four or five years to move to an elected school board,” Kilmer said, adding he supports a fully elected school board.

“It’s not important what I think. It’s important what the people of Wicomico County think. My role is to help get this on the ballot,” he said.

Council Vice President Matt Holloway agreed. “The whole purpose of this was to let the people decide,” he said, adding he’s eager to get the matter “off the table,” after years of discussion.

“We’re very fortunate to have Marc Kilmer on the Council with us. He is very familiar with bill drafting. He has done a very nice job of assembling the scattered thoughts of the council,” Holloway said.

The matter has lingered, he said, “because of a learning curve.”

“It took awhile for us to realize what the state was looking for, a more public process. We have done that by holding four public forums for input and we finally have the correct people on the Council and in the delegation.

“There has been quite a push of people who are requiring that they have the choice, that it goes up to referendum, so they can decide if they want an elected or an appointed school board,” Holloway said.

Throughout the country, more than 90 percent of school boards are elected, he said.


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