Baltimore County's legislative agenda Education focus: Towson seeks state help for crowded schools and older communities.

January 24, 1996

BALTIMORE COUNTY'S legislative agenda for this year in Annapolis reflects the stagnating local tax revenues that can no longer meet the demands of an older county that still has a burgeoning population of more than 100,000 school-age children.

The priority is for state school construction funds, and for money to expand a teacher-mentor program in under-performing schools. County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger is asking for $15 million to build new schools and additions, to at least put a dent in serious overcrowding. The appeal is actually to the state's Interagency Committee on School Construction, which decides which counties will get 60 percent state funding for building projects. But the legislature and the governor decide on the agency's annual funding level.

Baltimore County proposes to repeal the state "maintenance of effort" requirement that counties and the city expand school budgets as enrollments increase. That's an idea other financially struggling counties may support, but not one widely favored by state legislators.

At the same time, the county is asking the state to foot the $3 million bill to hire 60 veteran educators as mentors to novice teachers in 26 predominantly black schools. And the county wants authority for tighter audit controls over school system performance and spending, arguing that more can be done without significant budget increases.

The wish list also targets older sections of the county for revitalization and improvements. This program for the inner suburbs around the beltway has been cautiously developed over the past few years. Now it needs the impetus of concrete projects and spending to move beyond the philosophy and drawing-board levels.

A request for $5 million in state bond money aims at improving roads and sprucing up neighborhoods in the southeastern part of the county, and in downtown Catonsville. These areas need help to stem continuing neighborhood deterioration.

Given its size and needs, Baltimore County requests for state assistance are not unrealistic. With a unified county legislative delegation seemingly committed to the agenda, the task in Annapolis should be a bit easier.

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