No new money likely for schools, workers

May 16, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

After three public hearings on the proposed fiscal 199 budget, the Anne Arundel County Council has a pretty clear indication who is not satisfied: county employees who want a pay raise and parents who want new schools.

Some council members have said they are interested in providing one or the other, or even both.

But the chances of that are slim. Under the county charter, the council is not allowed to add money to the administration proposal except in education, or by persuading the county executive to submit a supplemental budget restoring popular programs that have been cut.

And Robert R. Neall, the executive, says he won't do that.

"The budget that I have submitted to the County Council for the next fiscal year is one that I feel is a financially sound plan that looks to the future," Mr. Neall wrote to council members last week. "It is not my intention to submit a FY 1994 supplemental budget to the County Council."

If the council wants to increase spending anywhere, it will have to cut the budget elsewhere.

Councilman Edward Middlebrooks, a Severn Democrat, said he will push for funding renovations at Andover Middle School in Glen Burnie. The money for the $13.9 million project was delayed until fiscal 1996 in the five-year capital plan.

"As the councilman from the 2nd District, I'm going to do everything I can to see we get Andover Middle School started this year," Mr. Middlebrooks said. "If that means we have to rethink other capital projects, then so be it. But that was something that was promised to these people years ago that has been stalled while other projects take precedence."

Mr. Middlebrooks will get strong support from his North County colleague, George Bachman. The Linthicum Democrat said he has asked Mr. Neall for money for the Andover project and renovations at Park Elementary School in Brooklyn Park.

Mr. Bachman said he was responding to hundreds of letters from his constituents, as well as a parade of residents who spoke at the public hearings, pleading for the two schools.

"You have these public hearings to listen to what the people are saying, and I think that's what the people on the fourth floor have to do," he said, referring to Mr. Neall's offices in the Arundel Center. "This is my request, and I am hoping the administration will honor that."

But Mr. Neall's spokeswoman, Louise Hayman, said the executive will not be able to find any money for more projects and programs.

"The county executive believes the budget as presented is appropriate for the coming fiscal year," she said. "However, he's willing to entertain any proposals the council might have."

Although Mr. Neall told council members that he would not submit a supplemental budget, he also told them to notify him by noon tomorrow if they had any additional budget requests.

Council Chairman David G. Boschert agreed with Mr. Neall's move. He said he is not of a mind to add anything to the budget, and repeated his proposal to cut down on overtime costs by cutting the 27 new firefighters Mr. Neall included and replace them with volunteers.

Council members were sympathetic to county employees who complained at the hearings that they haven't had a cost-of-living raise for three years, but members insisted that they couldn't raise the $13 million one leader said it would cost to give employees a 4 percent raise.

"Anything of that magnitude, $13 million, is going to have to come down from the fourth floor," Mr. Bachman said. "We can't add anything like that. We can only cut."

"I think it's a shame that we're not able to give the teachers and other employees a small cost-of-living increase after three years. . . . It bothers me," said Councilwoman Maureen Lamb. "But unless the Board of Education asks for it, we can't put it back."

The only way to grant the 4 percent increase county employees are asking for is to grant it during impasse hearings this week, she said.

Ms. Lamb said she did not know how she would vote, adding, "But certainly I am going to keep my ears open, and I am sympathetic."

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