Despite financial hard times, the Howard County executive proposed yesterday spending a record $1.1 billion over the next six years on new capital improvements.
Among the proposals are a $5.4 million yard-waste composting facility and spending $11.7 million to advance construction on several state highway projects in the upcoming fiscal year.
"Many of the projects are financed by bonds over 20 years, and it is not something we have to pay off today," said Raymond S. Wacks, the county budget officer, in explaining the billion-dollar capital program at a time when County Executive Charles I. Ecker is proposing cuts in the operating budget and layoffs.
Mr. Ecker is proposing $102 million in capital improvements for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. That, Mr. Wacks pointed out, is $84 million less than this fiscal year's capital appropriation forged by the former executive and council. However, the six-year capital program represents a record amount.
The advance financing of state highway projects is a first for the county government, Mr. Ecker said. He noted that the county has followed a similar policy for school construction since 1984.
He said the county funds would supplement state money once the State Highway Administration decided to continue construction of Route 100, upgrade eastbound lanes on part of Route 32 and improve other intersections.
Hal Kassoff, state highway administrator, welcomed Mr. Ecker's "interest in using county funds" but said "there is some question whether the county will be reimbursed. . . . The problem is, we don't know if we will have a revenue increase from the General Assembly to provide the state's share for these projects," Mr. Kassoff said.
For education, the executive is requesting $29.8 million next fiscal year, including $11 million for Western Middle School and $7.4 million for Northeast Elementary, and $290 million over six years. He approved all school board construction requests for next year, except for deferring a warehouse and environmental center.
The executive committed $15 million for farmland preservation and $1.7 million to make improvements on Centennial Lane in Ellicott City.
The executive's capital budget went to the council, which will hold a public hearing April 16. Final action is due May 23.