Council to debate challenge to veto Rehrmann objects to budget transfer

June 06, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

A fierce political battle of wills that centers on $250,000 of a $163 million Harford budget will resume tomorrow when county lawmakers decide whether to challenge the county executive's line-item veto.

The votes of five of the seven County Council members are required to override Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann's veto. The council, with one member absent, voted 4-2 Tuesday night to postpone a vote on the veto until tomorrow night.

The council had voted May 27 to transfer $250,000 to education so the school system could upgrade part-time assistant principals to full-time positions at 11 elementary schools. But three elementary schools may not get the full-time assistant principals they were promised by the County Council because Ms. Rehrmann's veto leaves the school system $50,000 short, said Ray R. Keech, school superintendent.

The $163 million operating budget, which the council unanimously adopted May 27, increases spending nearly 10 percent and gives 5,000 county employees raises while maintaining the current property tax rate.

Mrs. Rehrmann argued that shifting the $200,000 violated the county charter, which stipulates that the council may not tamper with revenue estimates -- or appropriations based on revenue estimates.

But council President Jeffrey D. Wilson, who led the 4-3 vote to cut the solid-waste fund and the detention center, said the council had done nothing illegal. He said Mrs. Rehrmann was using the "illegality issue" as an excuse to "do an end run on the deliberate nature of the county legislative body."

The school system will still get the $200,000 because when the council cut the appropriations, it also cut the solid-waste fund's expenses to keep the budget balanced, Mrs. Rehrmann said. But the school system will have to make up the remaining $50,000.

"The detention center is a critical public safety need," Mrs. Rehrmann said. "I think the board of education can find $50,000 in its budget for the assistant principals."

She noted that the school board had managed to find about $400,000 to help hire 20 elementary teachers at the last minute. The money came from savings on fuel oil and a refund on health insurance costs, the school system said. The council, with Mrs. Rehrmann's blessing, also transferred another $300,000 from county projects to hire the teachers.

Mr. Keech said coming up with the $400,000 for the teachers exhausted the school system's reserves. "I don't know where we can find $50,000," he said.

Mrs. Rehrmann's fiscal 1994 budget gave the school about $87 million, about $11 million more than this year. Almost all of the $11 million increase, the biggest since 1977, will go toward a $9.6 million wage package that includes a 3 percent cost-of-living raise, merit raises and Social Security payments.

The executive trimmed $4.4 million from the school system's request, but the County Council restored about $500,000.

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