Balto. Co. planners deny schools' budget request

March 20, 1995|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Sun Staff Writer

The Baltimore County Planning Board has turned down a capital budget request by the school board that was three times more costly than the spending authorized by voters in November.

Terming the request unreasonable, the Planning Board recommended Thursday night that the education capital budget for fiscal 1996 and 1997 be kept at $48.2 million -- the amount approved by the voters.

The Board of Education had requested approval for projects totaling $139.8 million for the two-year capital budget cycle.

The Planning Board did approve shifting funds from other accounts within the budget to accommodate three projects that were not approved by the voters, but for which the Board of Education had managed to get state funding a month before the election.

Last year, school officials sought $1.2 million each for additions to Woodmoor and Winfield elementary schools. Both requests were rejected by the Planning Board and then-County Executive Roger B. Hayden.

But the school officials then asked the state Interagency Committee on School Construction for aid on the projects and received $433,000 for each, with a provision that the county come up with the rest. The committee also approved $715,000 in planning money for modernization of Catonsville High School.

To make adjustments for the three projects in the $48.2 million school capital budget, the Planning Board reduced site improvement expenditures from $1.47 million to $200,000 and cut appropriations for asbestos abatement and removal from $2 million to $1 million.

The county uses a two-year capital budget process. The first year is for requests and the second for minor adjustments or emergencies.

Planning Board recommendations now go to County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, who can make changes before sending them to the County Council for final approval.

School officials argue that their obligation is to present the needs of the school system, and that the Planning Board and executive then must decide what the county can afford.

Although there was little discussion at this week's meeting, Planning Board members had plenty to say after a February meeting with school officials.

"The Board of Education should live within the capital budget the county and the voters approve," Planning Board member Wayne M. Skinner said then. The board should request state aid only for projects that have been approved by the county, he added.

On Thursday, William J. Bauman, chairman of the board's capital budget committee, said the board and school officials agreed to work more closely next year in preparing school capital budget requests. However, he said he still was "deeply disappointed" that school officials this year continued to push for the nearly $140 million in requests while knowing the funds weren't there.

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