ANNAPOLIS — On the eve of what Carroll legislators were calling the most crucialday of the General Assembly session, a group of county teachers madea last-ditch plea to the delegation to support full education funding.
The Carroll delegates -- Democrat Richard N. Dixon and Republicans Richard C. Matthews and Donald B. Elliott -- offered no promises Monday night on the budget and tax decisions they'd be considering Tuesday.
Instead, they hinted they would vote against full education funding because the provision was lumped into the same bill that included a variety of new and increased taxes.
"I'm probably not going to vote for it because I'm opposed to the total package," Dixon told the seven Carroll educators. "It's an all-or-nothing vote."
At least, that's the way it appeared Monday night before House debate began Tuesday.
The Carroll educators urged the legislators to vote to keep APEX intact. APEX is a formula which targets state aid to local jurisdictions for educational needs, such as hiring additional teachers and purchasing supplies. It is intended to balance discrepancies between wealthy and poor jurisdictions.
Carroll schools had been scheduled to receive $40.2 million in APEX money for fiscal 1993, a $6.3 million increase over the current year.
The $112.3 million budget passed last month by the Carroll Board of Education included that assumption.
But legislators who oppose tax increases, including the Carroll delegates, have contended that scheduled increases in APEX were planned during a stronger economy and that education funding should bescaled back since revenues have plummeted.
Several teachers said morale is down and worries are up because of constant talk of budget-cutting.
"We're worried about having larger classes and losing support personnel," said Lisa Blevins, a Taneytown Elementary fifth-grade teacher.
"It's just the whole deal with the budget, having to cut back on supplies, materials," said Harold Fair, also a Taneytown Elementary fifth-grade teacher. "Morale is just on the downswing, the fact that we haven't gotten raises in a few years and all our expenseskeep going up. Then we're always asked to do more."
Freedom Elementary teachers Dave Anderson and Ann Thompson, Manchester Elementary teacher's aide Gail S. Riley, Francis Scott Key High English teacher Maureen Dincher and Carroll County Education Association President Cindy Cummings made the trip. Dincher and Anderson are past presidents of CCEA, which represents about 1,400 teachers.
Riley and Dincher told the delegates they were concerned that if the tax package was not passed, county governments and education could suffer debilitating blows under alternative proposals.
"I want you to do what is right," Dincher told Dixon.
"I'll vote the way I feel is right," Dixon responded.
Matthews said he meets unemployed people and low-wage earners while working at his tire store on Hampstead's Main Street. Some of them work on their own cars because they can't afford a mechanic.
"It worries me to put all these taxes on them," said Matthews, referring to such proposals as a gas tax and local income tax rate increase. "Can they make it?"
A conference committee is expected to work out differences between House and Senate budget plans.