State hears counties 'beg' for school funds STATE HOUSE REPORT

January 28, 1993|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Staff Writer

Complaining that their needs are too often ignored, Montgomery County officials yesterday asked the state for $70 million to build and renovate public schools -- $3 million more than the governor intends to spend next year on all school construction projects statewide.

"You know we can't do that," Gov. William Donald Schaefer gently replied to the appeal by Montgomery County Executive Neal Potter. "But we're going to try to help."

Mr. Potter and officials from six other fast-growing counties plus Baltimore City paraded before the governor and the other two members of the Board of Public Works yesterday seeking more money for local school construction projects.

As expected, the board approved a plan yesterday to spend $47 million next year on 74 projects statewide, but held another $20 million in reserve to be parceled out later based on appeals from Baltimore and the counties.

It was that reserve that drew the county leaders and their requests to Annapolis yesterday.

"It isn't easy to stand up here and beg for assistance, but that's what we're doing," said Del. James E. Proctor Jr., a Prince George's County Democrat, speaking on behalf of his jurisdiction's modest-by-comparison $4.9 million appeal.

Counting Montgomery County's $70 million request, those appeals for a piece of the $20 million reserve pie totaled $103 million.

Mr. Potter conceded his county did not expect the board to approve such a large request, but said the state needs to understand that Montgomery's "world-class education system" is a major attraction to businesses, which in turn makes the county the economic engine of the state. He said Montgomery's school enrollment is 15 percent of the state total, and more than 31,000 new students are expected in the county system by the year 2001.

Montgomery County officials have been complaining with increasing regularity that the rest of the state is taking advantage of them. Many of the county's lawmakers are still incensed over the legislature's elimination in November of a Social Security subsidy from the state that hurt Montgomery more than any other jurisdiction.

Most of Montgomery County's request was for repayment of funds the county has already spent on school construction because it could not wait for state subsidies to become available.

County executives, legislators, school officials and even PTA presidents from Anne Arundel, Harford, Howard, Talbot and Baltimore counties joined Prince George's, Montgomery and Baltimore City in appealing for more money.

The requests ranged from an addition to a Bel Air middle school to replacement of the Solley Elementary School in Anne Arundel to purchase of 36 modular classroom units for eight crowded Prince George's schools.

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