Agencies' Wish List For Capital Projects Is Cut In Half

Stagnant Revenues Cited As Budget Office Axes Roads, Schools

January 20, 1991|By Darren Allen and Maria Archangelo and Anne Haddad and Ed McDonough and Amy Miller and Kerry O'Rourke and Greg Tasker | Darren Allen and Maria Archangelo and Anne Haddad and Ed McDonough and Amy Miller and Kerry O'Rourke and Greg Tasker,Staff writers

Carroll will spend less money on roads, bridges, buildings and schools during fiscal 1991 than it has in two years.

Citing stagnant revenues, the Carroll Management and Budget Office trimmed nearly $48 million from the $93.4 million agencies wanted to spend on capital projects between July and June 1992.

The resulting $45.3 million capital budget is 10.3 percent below the current $50.5 million level and nearly 18.5 percent below the $55.6 million spent on bricks-and-mortar projects during fiscal 1990.

"We will be able to do only what we need to do," said Steven D. Powell, budget and management director. "It means that we can do only what we need to do today."

The budget faces public hearings later this winter, before the commissioners adopt a final package in May.

"We certainly can't live very high off the hog around here," said Commissioner Vice President Elmer C. Lippy Jr.

For Commissioner President Donald I. Dell, the whole budget process has become a bit puzzling.

"I'm a little scared and confused," he said.

Among the hardest-hit areas of the capital budget are road construction, where 18 projects worth $13.5 million were cut from a requested $20.4 million; education construction, where $9.9 million was trimmed from an initialrequest of $22.1 million; and general government, where projects worth $18.9 million were shaved from a $32.2 million request.

Board of Education

Slashing the school system's $22 million capital improvements program request by nearly half will hinder the district's ability to move ahead with the construction of much-needed classrooms, saidLester B. Surber, director of school facilities/planning.

"It hasa considerable impact," he said, noting the system's request was reduced to $12.12 million.

Untouched by the budget office's knife, however, was a $7.2 million request for construction of the new Taneytown/Uniontown Elementary, slated to open east of Taneytown in the fallof 1993 to alleviate overcrowding at Taneytown Elementary and to eliminate use of Uniontown Elementary.

But money for other projects, such as the addition and renovation of Mechanicsville Elementary School, was eliminated.

County officials also eliminated $1.28 millionsought for the purchase of property for long-planned schools, including new Westminster and Sykesville elementaries, a northwest high, a new South Carroll high and a new Hampstead middle, all scheduled for planning and building the next 10 years.

However, Vernon F. Smith Jr., school support services director, said there is a fund balance of about $1.5 million for property acquisition, which should be adequate for land purchases in the near future. But, he noted the county cannot go year after year without acquisition money without impacting future purchases.

That cut will not affect the Taneytown/Uniontown project. Money for that project is in the current budget and school officials are considering a 35-acre site off Route 140 and Mayberry Road.

Without the $3.8 million in construction money for the Mechanicsville project, Surber said addition and renovation will be pushed back until at least fiscal 1993. He noted, though, that there are other problems associated with that project, including storm water management and septic system improvements, that need to be addressed beforeCarroll can proceed.

"It's not a major setback," Smith said. "We have a lot of planning to do. We recognize that we wouldn't be able to go to bid until next spring anyway."

A $1 million request for more site development money for the proposed Friendship Valley middle in Westminster was also deleted from the capital program. Scott said the request should not be included in the capital improvements programbecause bids for site development came in lower than expected.

"We do not need the additional money," Smith said.

Planning money for the new Westminster and Sykesville elementaries -- $269,000 for each -- was cut from the request.

School projects and property acquisition weren't the only capital projects eliminated by the county's budget slashing.

"We recognize there are difficult financial problems in the county," Smith said. "We view the recommendations as fallingshort in a few critical areas."

Those areas include $560,000 sought for the upgrading and purchase of computers and $85,000 for the overhaul of two cooling towers at East Middle and North Carroll High.

"Those are significant cuts," Smith said.

Smith said school officials have asked the county to reconsider those cuts. He said there may have been a misunderstanding about the computer request. That was not sought for use in the administration's eventual move into the former whiskey distillery building at Sherwood Square, but for use in schools and the central office.

"(The money) is for computer system improvements across the school system," he said. "It's part of a five-year data processing plan that wasn't funded at all in one year of the plan. (The request) is two years coupled together."

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