Back in fiscal 1989, with the national economy booming and county tax revenues expanding, the County Commissioners authorized just $493,000 for recreation and parks capital projects.
In fiscal 1992, with the national economy stagnant and county tax revenues off sharply, the county budget office is recommending that the commissioners spend$1.21 million on rec projects.
Now, you won't often hear me say this, so pay attention: $1.21 million in today's economy is way too much to spend on recreation projects.
With vital school and road programs being put on hold becauseof the economic downturn and with county workers staring at the prospect of little or no increase in pay, its ridiculous to think about spending so much for fun and games.
Don't get me wrong. I've got nothing against the planned recreation projects. All have merit, and all would serve county residents well.
But now is not the time to bebuilding them.
Oh, certainly we should work on a few of the projects, particularly those that could help bring money into the county.
Clearly, improvements at the Farm Museum and Piney Run Park and completion of the Bear Branch Nature Center at Hashawha Environmental Appreciation Center could fit in this budget. So could the money to begin design of a complex in Sykesville to replace ball fields lost to the reconstruction of O'Brecht Road.
And I might even agree with additional tennis courts at Francis Scott Key High, though I still think some of that money ought to come out of the Board of Education budget.
The Planning Commission already has recommended postponing two projects, and the budget office suggested deferring a few more. But, so far, everybody's left intact a $160,000 project to install fieldlights at North Carroll Middle School.
Installing lights for recreation fields is not what I would consider a high-priority item, and the Recreation and Parks Board apparently didn't either; it was at the bottom of the list of 16 projects sent to the commissioners for approval.
You wonder why that project hasn't been recommended for thebudget ax?
A little lesson in geo-politics might be in order here.
The lights are planned for a facility in North Carroll. Two of the three commissioners are from that area.
Every two years, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association realigns its various classifications.
That process makes sure that schools of the same size are grouped together for the purpose of crowning state champions. The association also tries, as best it can, to keep the regions geographically close. It also keeps the regions approximately thesame size.
But two sports -- golf and tennis -- do not crown champions based on school or region size. Golf teams and individual titlists are crowned on a statewide basis, as are the individual tennis champions (the state doesn't crown a team champ).
But the wildly varying sizes of the districts make you wonder just how equitable the playoff systems for golf and tennis are.
Advancement to those tournaments is through district tournaments. Districts are administrative areas and have nothing to do with the size of the schools involved.
I'll be the first to admit that spectator interest in high school golf and tennis isn't terribly high in Maryland, and I'll agree that wedon't need to crown champions in various classifications in those events.
But with some simple tinkering, the MPSSAA could make the district alignment more equitable.
The worst disparity is between District 5, which includes 34 schools in Carroll, Howard, Harford and Anne Arundel counties, and neighboring District 4, which includes justnine schools in the Southern Maryland counties of Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's.
By shifting the 12 Anne Arundel County schools fromDistrict 5 to District 4, you'd balance the two about as much as possible (21 in District 4 and 22 in District 5). That also would make those districts more compatible with the other four districts west of the Chesapeake Bay.
The only remaining trouble area would be the two Eastern Shore districts. District 7 on the Upper Shore has nine schools, and District 8 has 13. Moving Talbot County schools from District 7 to District 8 would give each 11.
The two districts still would be noticeably smaller than the neighbors to the west, but the distribution would be about as fair as possible.
It also might make it a little easier for county tennis players to earn a spot in the state tournament. Carroll netters often are eliminated at the district level, while less-talented players from the Monocacy Valley Athletic League and Central Maryland Conference, competing in District 1, advance to the state tournament.