Speakers ask that much be saved in county budget and that little be cut

February 23, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

About 100 Anne Arundel County citizens gathered last night in Crownsville and asked County Executive Robert R. Neall to spare their favorite programs from the budget ax.

At the first of four hearings Mr. Neall is conducting on the budget, he heard pleas to save several county programs, including a before- and after-school child care program. He also heard from people asking for money for new programs, such as an expansion of the crowded South Shore Elementary School and new athletic fields in Crofton.

Mary Marsh of Arnold spoke against a proposal to privatize the county's child care program, which is run by the Department of Recreation and Parks. She noted that there are 1,130 licensed child care facilities in the county with slots for 4,805 children. Of that number, more than 600 children are served by the county program.

"If the county privatizes the school-age child care program and we lose half -- just half those slots -- for affordable child care, we will be putting children home alone or in illegal, sometimes unsafe day care centers," she said.

Several people associated with South Shore Elementary in Crownsville complained about crowding in a building that was built for 95 students and now houses 250, and asked that plans for expansion be approved.

"Much has been said in recent months about 'Bridging the Gap,' " said Rosemary Biggart, the parent of two South Shore students, in a reference to a school board report addressing inequities in elementary school staffing. "In schools like South Shore, we cannot begin to bridge the gap until we fill in the holes."

Catherine Gonzalez, who has three children at South Shore, said her son attends classes in a portable classroom and must walk across the playground to the main building to use the bathroom. School doors must be left unlocked to allow such access.

Dorie Folstein, who heads the Crofton Athletic Council, said that her program had ballooned to 1,700 youths -- a 40 percent increase -- in the last 13 months, but that because of a lack of playing fields in her community, the number of teams has not been able to grow.

"Unfortunately, these kids don't learn the lessons of sportsmanship and equal opportunity," she said. "They learn to sit and wait."

Mr. Neall told the citizens at the hearing at the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development's People's Resource Center that he will use their ideas to help make decisions on where to reduce the fiscal 1994 budget.

The proposed budget is to be submitted to the County Council on April 30.

Mr. Neall said he welcomed citizen input "that would bring you out on a cold winter night" on what programs should be kept but added, "I also need to know which programs you'd be willing to sacrifice."

Officials from the Budget Office kept a tally of the cost of the programs being requested and, at the end of the hearing, announced that people had requested $11 million in funding for direct programs, a $35 million increase in general spending additional $21.5 million for capital projects.

On the other side of the ledger, speakers offered $200,000 to $300,000 in cuts.

Although some programs will have to be scaled back or eliminated, Mr. Neall has said most cuts will come from the administrative branch and should not affect most services to county residents.

Mr. Neall said the budget cuts are necessary because the county will lose about $25 million in revenue in the next fiscal year due to the property tax cap and the county's agreement to pay Social Security taxes for school, community college and library employees.

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