The County Council voted 7-0 Tuesday to borrow more than $3.9 million in the bond market to pay part of a new Fallston Middle School and all of the renovations to the Bel Air branch of the Harford County Library.
For the past eight years, the only construction projects Harford County has paid for with bond money have been improvements to water and sewer service. User fees repay those bonds.
Bonds sold for the school and library projects will be paid back out of the county's general fund.
The $3.9 million already set aside for the two projects in this year's capital budget will revert to the county's general fund to help build an end-of-the-year surplus, said James M. Jewell, the county treasurer.
The county's 35 percentshare of the school construction is $3 million.
The Bel Air library project will cost $944,699.
County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmannsaid she sought council approval to go to the bond market for the projects to avoid spending cash so that the county can end the year with a cash surplus.
The surplus is needed because the county must end the fiscal year, June 30, with a minimum of $4.5 million in its treasury to protect its bond ratings, Jewell said. The county's Aa and A+ bond ratings, awarded by Standard & Poor's and Moody's, two bond rating houses, ensure the county pays a lower interest rate on bonds.
Tied to the effort to build the surplus, the council voted to ax four projects set for this year, including county courthouse renovations, a community needs and traffic study, and a new entrance to HarfordCommunity College. Because the Edgewood Lions Club has agreed to pay for an Edgewood/Joppa senior center, that project also was cut.
The budget cuts will save $224,760.
Money for the traffic study will appear in next year's budget, Rehrmann said.
The council postponed until at least March 5, a decision on whether to agree to cut $500,000 for a new building for the county Humane Society. Rehrmann wants to cut that project this year.
County Treasurer James M. Jewell said Rehrmann had reached an agreement with Humane Society officials to postpone that project until the economy has improved.
As a stop-gap measure to relieve overcrowding at the shelter near Fallston, Rehrmann has promised to include $15,000 in next year's budget to pay for construction of an addition to the shelter, Jewell said.
He told the council Rehrmann has promised to "revisit the issue of a new building when the economy and Harford's financial situation improve."
But most of the seven council members said they were concerned thata new Humane Society building might never be built if the project ispostponed.
Jewell said, however, that Rehrmann already has decided not to spend the money set aside this year for the animal shelter and the other projects.
He said the only reason council approval onthe bill is needed is because Rehrmann wants to transfer the unspentmoney into the county's general fund to help build the surplus. If the council does not pass the bill, Jewell said, money for the projects would remain in the capital budget and would carry over into next year's capital budget.