Linda Comeringer told Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden that her teen-age daughter's school classes have 36 students in them -- far larger than the touted county average of 24.7 kids a class.
With her 4-year old daughter, Maggie, in tow, the Wilson Point woman told him, "That's too many children in class. . . . Do your job to protect the future."
But Mary Carmen, of Dundalk, told Hayden, "We can't afford more, more, more. Uncontrolled self-indulgence has gotten us on the ropes."
The setting was Kenwood High School in Essex. Hayden had come there last night to hear opinions on how Baltimore County should spend its limited funds next year.
Elected on a wave of political unrest and tax protest last November, the former county school board president and corporate executive is but three weeks away from announcing his first county budget. He listened for an hour last night to random taxpayers invited to the school. He heard a divergence of opinions.
Sarah Albritton of Middle River told the executive that her 12-year-old son suffers from hyperactivity and attention deficit-disorder, but doesn't qualify for special help because he's not learning disabled, too. He's in classes of 35 kids, too, she said.
But Kevin Davis, who said his children attend parochial school, insisted that the public schools are "getting too much. The tax issue gave us a new county executive and a new council, and it could very well be again."
Hayden heard 21 speakers from the crowd of perhaps 65 people. He's planning a second session tonight at 6:30 at Woodlawn High, 1801 Woodlawn Drive, on the county's west side, and a final session at 6:30 tomorrow night at Loch Raven High School, Cromwell Bridge and Cowpens roads, near Towson. He's due to present his budget to the County Council April 16.
He heard last night from teachers, school administrators, teachers' union President Ed Veit and from advocates for continued county recreation programs. Conversely, he heard from older Dundalk residents who said they are fed up with rising property taxes. They urged him to cut spending, and the tax rate too.
As he said himself after the hearing, "It was nothing that I haven't heard before." Having people come to a public meeting, however, at least acquaints them with each other's views, he said.
Hayden is now reviewing the $51 million increase the schools are requesting and the $40 million or so other departments say they must have too, in light of a $43 million ceiling on increased county spending he's agreed to stay under.
He wouldn't say last night whether he will change the current property tax rate of $2.895 per $100 of assessed value.
"April 16 is the day to find that out," he said, smiling tightly.