School System Slush Fund Questioned About $540K in Annual Tower Revenues

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Some Maryland parents are keeping track of how much cell tower money is coming into the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) annually, $539,842 to be precise, and are questioning how it is being used. The Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County has detailed the location and ownership of the various sites and who is leasing at each one. 

In a blog posted by the Coalition, authored by member Janis Sartucci, it states the lease payments are made to MCPS, the largest public school system in the state, but the money received does not go to pay teacher salaries, buy classroom materials, or build classrooms. 

“When the money is received by MCPS it is immediately funneled to local principals for deposit in their local school bank accounts,” Sartucci states in the blog. “We refer to these accounts as slush funds because there is no public accounting for how these funds are used.  In the past, investigations of principal bank accounts have shown all sorts of uses for these funds.” The blog cited a 13-year-old audit done on Churchill High School in Potomac, MD that turned up anomalies.  

“Check out the MCPS Operating Budget,” Sartucci’s blog says.You won’t find any mention of this revenue, nor will you ever hear the Board of Education discuss these funds…they never mentioned the $539,842 they get every year from cell towers as a possible source of revenue.”

The Coalition blog asks: “does the Montgomery County Council even know the Board of Education receives this money? The revenue is not listed in the Operating Budget and isn’t brought to the Council for appropriation. What could an extra $539,842 in the MCPS Operating Budget buy? A few more teachers? HVAC repairs? ADA compliance? Water bottle filling stations?”

(ed: This story is part of an on-going investigation and research project into how much the tower industry pays into school systems nationwide. If you care to share your information on how many towers your company has on school properties and, roughly, how much you pay them in revenue, please send that to [email protected]. All submissions will be treated confidentially. No individual company’s info will be broken out separately. One of the “Big Three” and several large middle tier companies have already sent us their info. We would like to compile this to help counter negative pushback being faced at the local levels.)

By Jim Fryer, Managing Editor, Inside Towers

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