Things could change for Worcester County in terms of state aid to education under the Kirwan Commission proposal released this week, but no one should plan on it.
As long as the determining basis for state aid to education is taxable wealth per capita, this county’s school system will be on the short end of the receiving line.
Thanks to Ocean City, the county is rich in terms of assessable property at $16 billion, and isn’t poor enough per capita on the personal income scale to strike a better balance.
With a population of roughly 52,000, a net taxable income per person of $25,800 (12th in the state) and that huge tax base, county government’s ability to generate tax revenue using state average rates is $4,500 for every adult and child living here, or so Kirwan figures.
What the formula fails to consider is that most of these dollars are concentrated in one end of the county and that Worcester is not one county, but two — the wealthy coastal area and everywhere else between the lines.
That disparity also obscures the significance of the number of public school students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals. School officials report that 43 percent of the student enrollment participates in these programs, but it’s worse in southern Worcester.
Consequently, this county’s school meal numbers look better than they are, considering that Somerset has 66 percent participation and Wicomico has 61 percent.
Even though this county’s economic portrait is blurred by Ocean City’s property wealth, neither the Kirwan Commission nor the General Assembly is likely to do anything about it.