County Council Down To The Wire On Budget Approval

May 26, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

Do you want more teachers for your children or a bigger landfill foryour trash?

And if you want both, can the county pay for them in such a lean financial year?

Those are some of the questions the County Council is wrestling with this week as it comes down to the wire on enacting the 1991-1992 county budget, effective July 1.

One of the answers Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson has come up with is a proposal to shift $908,700 from a project to expand the county's central landfill to the Boardof Education budget so more teachers can be hired. He's also asking the county executive to designate other money for the landfill project.

As for the money Wilson is proposing adding to the board of education budget, there is a catch.

Wilson's proposed amendments and resolutions to the county budget ordinance call for an agreement fromschool Superintendent Ray R. Keech and the school board that they'lluse the money the way the council wants.

Under Wilson's proposal,the Board of Education and school Superintendent Ray R. Keech would agree to spend the $908,700 this way:

* $745,200 to hire 30 new teachers, including six art teachers for elementary schools.

* $155,500 to make up for a shortfall in the Harford special education budget because the state is contributing $100,000 less than it has in pastyears. The money also would be used to hire a special education administrator.

* $8,000 to increase the substitute nurse salary by $30a day.

Wilson's plan also hinges on County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann's willingness to consider another source of money for the landfill expansion project.

Under Wilson's proposal, Rehrmann would beasked to submit legislation asking the council to approve for the landfill expansion $917,000 the county has saved by completing, canceling or delaying capital projects.

Earlier this year, Rehrmann sought to use the $917,000 to help build a financial cushion for the county. But the council vetoed that idea, and the money remains in the county's current capital budget program.

Wilson's plan hinges on Rehrmann accepting the initiative. The county executive would have to introduce another piece of legislation requesting the $917,000 be spent on the landfill project.

Rehrmann's director of administration, Larry Klimovitz would not speculate on whether such a proposal would beforthcoming from the executive. But he said, "We didn't want to makethe expansion contingent on anything else."

Klimovitz termed Wilson's proposals a "domino" plan and said it has him concerned about future of the county central landfill, Scarboro.

"It's critical thatwe go through with the construction of another cell," said Klimovitz. "Without a new cell, we will be out of space in May 1992. We did not want to base the funding for something so important on a domino effect."

The council is scheduled to take up discussion of the issue at its May 28 meeting, but because council members do not expect to finish their discussion of the budget, they have scheduled a special session for 8:30 p.m. May 30. The county charter requires the council to enact the budget by May 30. The complicated transfer Wilson has suggested would, in part, be allowed under the county charter. The council has the authority to cut money from any county department's budget, with the proviso that it can only add money to the Board of Education budget.

In April, school board members asked the council to fully finance their request for $88.6 million in county money, which provides more than half of the school system's income. The rest comes from the state.

Rehrmann had set aside $72.6 million for the county's contribution to the Board of Education budget in her proposed 1991-1992 budget.

Richard C. Molinaro, the school board president, said he was pleased at the prospect of an additional $908,700. "We're intotal agreement" about how the additional money should be spent, Molinaro said. "Isn't that nice? It doesn't sell papers, but it's nice."

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