Baltimore County Council vote is slap at Berger

June 22, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

In what two Baltimore County Council members said was slap at school Superintendent Stuart Berger, the council refused last night to vote on a routine transfer of funds in the education budget.

Council Chairman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-3rd, stunned a half-dozen school officials at the meeting when he told them he was not satisfied with their responses to council questions about the $4.6 million proposed for transfer between accounts and that the council would not vote on the proposal.

The money would be used to cover payments made to teachers who were given incentives to take early retirement in 1992.

Mr. Ruppersberger denied using the proposed transfer of funds to inject the council into the public uproar from teachers and parents over Dr. Berger's proposal to speed inclusion of special education students in regular classrooms. But two other council members said that was their reason.

"When parents and teachers are very concerned," said Councilman William A. Howard IV, R-6th, "I want to know now" what the $2.1 million in special education funds marked for transfer was originally intended to pay for.

Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, D-5th, agreed, saying, "Until the special education issue is resolved, I'm hesitant to move forward."

The council's refusal to act at its last meeting of the current fiscal year creates a bookkeeping problem for Dr. Berger, who will not be able to close his books June 30, the last day of the fiscal year.

No emergency will result, school officials said, because the funds can be approved retroactively.

Councilman Donald C. Mason, D-7th, said, "I'm sure that it's going to get resolved real quick."

Robert Chapman III, the associate school superintendent and the senior school official at the meeting, at first refused comment, saying, "We've got to figure out what's going on."

Later, Mr. Chapman said the budget transfer and the special education controversy "are not related at all."

Mr. Ruppersberger said the council has questions concerning how the school system saved $4.6 million to spend on the incentives.

Last week at the council work session, school officials said some savings resulted from reduced contributions to the retirement program as a result of the early retirements. About $1 million was saved in school transportation costs and the rest in special education funding, they said.

But Mr. Ruppersberger said detailed answers were not provided to the council until after 11 a.m. yesterday.

"I told them not to come with [answers] on Monday," he said after the council meeting.

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