Voters Hamstring Efforts Of Council To Rule Budget Question A Nixed Contingency Reserve Fund

November 11, 1990|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

Harford voters refused the County Council's bid for more power in the budget process and voted to repeal the business-use zoning approved for a 200-acre piece of property near Interstate 95 and Route 24.

Ballot Question A asked voters whether they favored or opposed an amendment to the county's charter that would have given the council power to make budget cuts and then move the money into a separate contingency reserve fund for later use.

Votes against the proposal numbered 19,654 -- 43 percent of the vote.

Votes in favor of the amendment totaled 17,831 -- 39 percent.

The vote against the measure means the council will continue to have limited power over the budget. The council retains its ability to cut any part of the budget, but cannot add the cut money to other areas of the budget, except the Board of Education budget.

Only the county executive has the authority to add or shift money to all areas of the budget.

The proposed charter amendment would have given the council more discretion over the budget because council members would have been able to set aside money for possible projects without approving the expenditure outright. Council members who supported the amendment said the measure would allow them time to review details of proposals before making a decision on the project.

Harford voters also rejected a proposal in the first voter referendum question they have faced since 1972.

Question B, called by some the "mall question," asked voters whether they wanted to keep or repeal the comprehensive rezoning plan adopted by the County Council last year.

Of the 36,409 voters who cast ballots on Question B, 21,920, or 48.5 percent, voted against the question, in effect repealing the comprehensive rezoning package; 14,489, or 32 percent, voted to uphold the new zonings.

However, the repeal triggered a contingency bill passed by the council in the spring that preserved all new zoning throughout the county except on the 200-acre parcel in Abingdon. That's where Windsor Properties Inc., of Texas, had proposed building a mall. Windsor dropped its plans after deciding the ballot question made spending money on the project too risky.

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