Line-item veto over school budgets questioned

December 02, 1992|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Carroll County's commissioners may not be successful in getting legislation enacted that gives them line-item veto power over the county school board's budget or permission to audit the board's management practices, some county delegates said yesterday.

"It just doesn't seem to add up to me," Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, said yesterday during a 2 1/2 -hour meeting at the County Office Building.

Senator Smelser noted that the General Assembly gave the commissioners line-item veto power last year and they did not use it. He asked why they didn't.

"We considered it as a big stick to hold in case things didn't go the way we wanted them to," Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said. He called the veto power "a valuable weapon" that "should be used only as a backup."

Del. Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, said the two proposals would become state issues and special interest groups would work to defeat them.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who does not support line-item veto, said he does not feel qualified to cut certain school budget items. It would be better to work cooperatively with the school board as the commissioners have done in the past, he told the delegation.

Del. Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, said the school board voted in 1977 to make Carroll's three commissioners ex-officio school board members. Mr. Dixon, who was a school board member then, said that move was made as a compromise to the commissioners' request for the line-item veto.

As ex-officio members, the commissioners cannot vote on school board business, but may attend all meetings and be involved in all aspects of the board's activities, Mr. Dixon said.

Mr. Dell currently is the commissioner who attends school board meetings as an ex-officio member.

Mr. Lippy said he did not know that all three commissioners were ex-officio members.

No school board members attended yesterday's meeting, but some of them have said they oppose the proposed legislation.

The commissioners and delegation also discussed legalizing video poker machines for use in Carroll fraternal clubs.

Westminster attorney Daniel Green yesterday asked the commissioners to reconsider the decision they made Monday not to introduce legislation to legalize the machines.

When the commissioners did not appear willing to reconsider, Mr. Green asked if they would consider raising the limit on raffle prizes in Carroll to $5,000 from $2,500. Frederick County has a $5,000 limit.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, suggested that the fraternal clubs could raise money through ways other than gambling.

The commissioners also want the delegation to introduce legislation to license massage parlors, create a solid waste authority and deal with the end of the state police Resident Trooper Program.

"I think your legislative package is very complete," Mr. Dixon said.

The only bill he said he could not support would allow the county to do criminal background checks on prospective employees. The commissioners did not show a need for that bill and the background check could violate privacy, he said.

Director of General Services J. Michael Evans told the delegation he would like to do background checks for prospective county inspectors who often must be on private property alone.

The number of bills the commissioners have asked the delegation to introduce is almost twice what it usually is, said Del. Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, the delegation chairman.

"It's a growing county and has got a lot of problems," Mr. Matthews said.

The delegation will take public comment on the proposals from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Jan. 9 in Room 7 of the County Office Building. The General Assembly session begins Jan. 13.

Copies of the proposed bills are available at the County Office Building. For information, call 857-2030.

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