Balto. County schools take a wallop Slash capital budget request by two-thirds, says Planning Board.

March 10, 1992|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Citing fiscal problems, the Baltimore County Planning Board wants to cut two-thirds of the funding the school system has requested for new schools, expansion projects and maintenance.

In its capital budget request, the Education Department asked that voters in November authorize $91.5 million in borrowing. But the Planning Board recommended that County Executive Roger B. Hayden approve only $31 million when he submits his budget to the County Council in April.

Although county planners downplayed the significance of the board's recommendation, school planner James Kraft called it "a disaster." And School Superintendent Robert Y. Dubel said the county seems "to place more importance on highway projects than on schools."

The board recommended no funding for a new middle school in White Marsh and a new elementary school in Owings Mills, areas to which the county has tried to attract new development.

The panel also recommended no funding for remodeling Essex Elementary School and for additions to Baltimore Highlands, Relay and Halethorpe elementary schools in the southwestern county.

Funding for an addition to Perry Hall High School and for a new north county elementary school was also rejected by the board.

The board recommended eliminating a request for more than $8.4 million to equip all schools with computers, and reducing to $10 million from $15 million funds to repair leaky school roofs. The panel also recommended that the schools spend only $14.6 million of the $19 million left over from the bonds voters authorized in November 1990.

The Planning Board also recommended that the executive deny requests for funding for new middle schools in Painters Mill and Perry Hall and additions to Chadwick Elementary School and Towson High School; $500,000 so that Sudbrook Middle School could re-open in September 1993; and $50,000 for a feasibility study to determine whether Essex Elementary should be renovated or replaced, a judgment that Mr. Kraft called "shortsighted."

Planner Beverly Morely said the Education Department was the only county agency that was not limited to a preapproved spending ceiling. As a result, she said, the board's recommendations appear more severe than they actually are.

The Planning Board, however, agreed to recommend that should the county's fiscal condition improve, the county could approve another $4 million for the schools for fiscal 1993, which begins July 1.

Nonetheless, at a school board meeting last week, Dr. Dubel protested the Planning Board's recommendations. "If there were 500 adults in a building and it was raining all over them, they wouldn't stand for it. But we put 500 children in that position," he said.

"What really frosts me is the $1.6 billion [in federal money] for roads and bridges. We may not have a direction in this country, but we'll get there on good roads and bridges."

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