Neall Returns $1.8 Million To Education

School Officials Angry At Earmarking For Supplies

November 15, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

County Executive Robert R. Neall angered school officials yesterday by restoring $1.8 million the Board of Education had cut in teaching materials and supplies.

Neall restored the cut using $1.8 million the school board had saved by joining the county's self-insurance program. School officials say they wished Neall had let the board decidehow to spend the money.

The money for school supplies was part of a revised budget Neall introduced to the County Council yesterday that would make up for $20.8 million lost in state aid and local revenues. The council will conduct three hearings on the revised budget before voting Dec. 2.

"I'm extremely disappointed at Bobby's proposed budget revision," School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton said. "He did not trust the board tomake its own decision on where to put the $1.8 million it saved. We've got lots of problems, and supplies and materials are only one of them."

Charles LoCascio, executive director of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, said he wished Neall had used the money to restore some of the four furlough days the board is making school employees take.

"That could be two furlough days right there, so it's things rather than people he seems to be interested in," LoCasciosaid. "We're happy he put the money back, we're just not happy wherehe put it."

Neall expressed concern last month when the school board cut teaching supplies and materials 20 percent, or $2.7 million. Budget Officer Steve Welkos said Neall restored some of the money because he thought teaching materials were important.

A state law approved last month gives Neall and the council broad powers to reopen the budget process, cut union contracts and delete specific line itemsfrom the school budget -- with the exception of teachers and educational supplies -- for the remainder of the fiscal year. Neall had asked the General Assembly for the expanded powers.

Neall used that law to restore the cut, County Attorney Jud Garrett said, although he may have been able to do it anyway under the normal budget process spelled out in the County Charter and state law.

The county is striking an unprecedented second budget for fiscal 1992 to cover $14.2 million in state cuts to local government approved by the General Assembly last month. County income taxes have added to the deficit, coming in $6.5 million less than budgeted.

Neall's revised budget cuts county spending for fiscal 1992 from $616.6 million to $598.5 million.

The plan includes $6.1 million in wage concessions for 4,000 countyemployees. All county unions but the one representing detention center officers accepted a 3 percent pay cut or five furlough days. Threedetention center guards will be laid off.

The school board imposed four-day furloughs for its 6,700 employees over the objections of unions, saving $4 million.

Neall's budget saves $400,000 by reorganizing the executive branch of county government, eliminating 11 positions. Neall also froze an additional 109 positions throughout county government, saving $2.7 million.

In addition to the three detention center officers, six health department workers and three upper-management employees will lose their jobs.

Neall also cut $1.5 millionin pay-as-you-go capital projects and saved $100,000 by limiting theuse of take-home vehicles.

He added $150,000 to keep three of four halfway houses for recovering alcoholics and addicts open through the end of the fiscal year. The state had cut all its funding for the programs.

He also shifted $523,000 from other areas to keep 12 health department programs running and added $1.8 million to the school budget to cover state cuts in teachers' and librarians' pensions.

In his address to the council, Neall called the fiscal crisis the county's worst since the 1930s and warned council members that wholesalechanges to his budget could jeopardize county services.

Council members, led by Councilman David Boschert, D-Crownsville, approved a bill last week apparently giving them unprecedented power to change Neall's budget. County attorneys, however, say the county could face a legal challenge if the council uses its new powers.

Yesterday, council members said they have no plans to use their expanded powers andsaid they are eager to work with Neall.

"I don't see wholesale changes, but we are certainly going to do our job," said Council Chairwoman Virginia Clagett, D-West River.

Hearings on the bill are set for Nov. 20 at Old Mill High School, Nov. 21 at the Arundel center inAnnapolis and Nov. 25 at Southern High School. All hearings begin at7:30 p.m.

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