A bill to construct artificial turf fields at all county high schools has received the support of the Prince George’s County Board of Education and continues to move through the legislature. The bill would require the installation of a turf field at all 21 Prince George’s County high schools throughout the next four years, ending […]
A bill to construct artificial turf fields at all county high schools has received the support of the Prince George’s County Board of Education and continues to move through the legislature.
The bill would require the installation of a turf field at all 21 Prince George’s County high schools throughout the next four years, ending fiscal 2020 and completing no more than five fields each year. Jay Walker (D-Prince George’s) proposed the bill in the House of Delegates. The bill’s cross-filed counterpart in the Senate has been sponsored by a group of four Prince George’s County senators, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.
An amended version of the bill passed the Senate in a 44-2 on March 24.
Demetria Tobias, general counsel for the Prince George’s County Board of Education, said in a memo dated March 18 the board would support the bill if the legislature implemented amendments suggested by the Board. The Board asked for changes after the original bill required the school system to pay for the fields if funding could not be found elsewhere, such as in Program Open Space or with private funding. With the estimated field costs of $600,000 and $750,000, the school system’s spending could increase by as much as $3 million each year.
The amended bill prohibits the use of general operating funds by Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) for any of the projects, but can use donated or fundraised money. The amount of money Program Open Space provides for turf fields cannot exceed 50 percent of the amount allocated for other projects in Prince George’s County.
“The board disfavors using capital improvement funds from the Public School Construction Program to pay for a turf field, unless it’s a new school construction or major renovation for which a turf field is an allowable cost,” Tobias said.
When it comes time to make improvements to the schools within the county, Tobias said the Board would not want to have to choose between “boilers and roofs and classroom expansions versus turf fields.”
Tobias also suggested another amendment to the bill on behalf of the Board, requesting the bill give the Board final approval of the order of installation for the schools. The Board would like to be able to be in control of which schools receive the fields and when, Tobias said.
“The Board’s input on the installation order is particularly important, as the bill proposes to make turf fields an eligible public school construction project, which would place it in the same category as boilers and roofs and classroom expansions on our list of over $2 billion capital improvement needs,” Tobias said in a memo dated March 13.
The Senate Budget and Taxation committee amended the bill to indicate that before making “any expenditures required,” the Board should enter in a memorandum of understanding to “provide shared public, non-school use of the turf fields.”