Noneducation budget accepted by council Four projects face May 11 vote

April 28, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

The noneducation portion of Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker's $81.7 million amended capital budget proposal for fiscal 1994 survived a County Council work session virtually unscathed yesterday.

Mr. Ecker had already picked his proposed budget clean by paring $2.5 million. The council accepted most of what Mr. Ecker proposed. It postponed a straw vote on four projects until May VTC 11, but none of the projects appears to be in trouble.

Shane Pendergrass, a 1st District Democrat, expressed appreciation that Mr. Ecker's amended proposal included $377,000 to design and build a nutrition center at the Savage multipurpose center in her district.

The project was to have been deferred until fiscal 1995. Ms. Pendergrass wanted the nutrition center put in the fiscal 1994 budget and Mr. Ecker agreed. The $377,000 request reflects a 10 percent cut in the amount previously set aside for construction of the project, as do all unbid construction requests in the government portion of Mr. Ecker's amended proposal. Mr. Ecker also made sure -- thanks to an assist from Del. Virginia M. Thomas, a District 13A Democrat -- that plans for a drug and alcohol halfway house at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital will go forward this fiscal year.

After the General Assembly failed to pass a bill matching the county half of the $500,000 project, Ms. Thomas appealed for help from Nelson J. Sabatini, state secretary of health and mental hygiene.

Mr. Sabatini promised Ms. Thomas $150,000 in state aid. That still left the county $100,000 short. Mr. Ecker made up the difference in the proposed budget, bringing the county's share of the cost to $350,000.

Ms. Thomas had earlier helped Mr. Ecker and Ms. Pendergrass get an extra $8.6 million in state school construction money for the coming fiscal year.

In other action yesterday, the council approved 70 percent or $30.8 million of Mr. Ecker's noneducation portion of the budget. Still to be decided are two projects related to the Alpha Ridge Landfill in Marriottsville and a $190,000 project at Howard Community College.

Councilman C. Vernon Gray, a 3rd District Democrat, asked that a straw vote on the landfill projects be deferred until the council's May 11 work session. Mr. Gray wants to know why the projects were being funded with general obligation bonds. He said the county's bond affordability committee recommended that the Alpha Ridge projects be funded with revenue bonds. Interest on revenue bonds is paid by user fees. Interest on general obligation bonds is part of the debt service paid in the county's operating budget.

One of the Alpha Ridge proposals would cost $11.7 million in the coming fiscal year. It is part of a $41.7 million project to design and developa system of cell liners and leachate collection at the landfill.

The other Alpha Ridge proposal is part of a $6.4 million project to design and construct a yard waste facility. The request for fiscal 1994 is $1.1 million.

A community college request of $190,000 for renovations was put on hold until the May 11 work session so that a description of the project can be reworded.

The $8.6 million in additional state aid enabled Mr. Ecker to increase the education portion of his budget by $8.3 million. The council will hear discussion on the education projects at a public hearing Saturday morning.

The council will set the tax rate and approve the fiscal 1994 capital and operating budgets May 20.

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