County officials question process for school bids

March 13, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

Carroll County school officials have defended their practice of putting projects out for bid before the money has been formally approved by the state and county.

The school board never accepts a bid until the money is voted on by county commissioners and state boards. But construction time would be lost if the bidding process could not start until July 1, when the new fiscal year begins, Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said Friday at a joint meeting of the board and county commissioners.

County officials are concerned about the legality of schools advertising for bids before the money is approved, because the county is not allowed to do that, said Steven Powell, director of the county's Office of Management and Budget.

Mr. Powell said state regulations do not permit such a practice by the county because it has a commissioner form of government without home rule. However, he said, he was unable to get a definitive answer on whether the school system is bound by that rule.

Lester Surber, supervisor of facilities for Carroll schools, said the school board's law firm researched the matter and found nothing illegal about advertising projects for bid before they receive formal approval.

Mr. Powell said he is concerned about public perceptions if a project such as the Taneytown Elementary School expansion is touted as producing a school large enough for 600 students and then may have to be scaled back at the last minute.

The state so far has cut the county's request by $1.2 million, arguing that the school should be built for 400 students, based on the state's formula.

Local officials have argued that the school already has about 400 students and will grow because of housing developments planned in the area, which the state does not factor into its formula.

Mr. Shilling said he hopes the governor and legislature will approve additional money for Taneytown and for Oklahoma Road Middle School, which would ease crowding at Sykesville ** Middle School.

"In our opinion, as advocates . . . it would be a mistake for us to readvertise that project assuming we won't get the $1.2 million," Mr. Shilling said. "If that happens, we feel we have an obligation to go to the county. We know it puts pressure on us, and it puts pressure on you."

School board President John D. Myers said, "We need some support out there right now. If what you're saying [is that] the expectation of the community is adding heat to some of the players in the system, I don't have any problem with that."

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