Merger possible for pair of community colleges Schools in Essex, Dundalk examined by council

March 27, 1996|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

A month before they tackle the annual budget, members of the Baltimore County Council are examining consolidating two of the county's three community colleges and moving the system's headquarters from an expensive suite of offices in Towson.

"We are talking about consolidating Essex and Dundalk because they are so close together and a lot of duplicative effort goes on at those Eastside schools," said Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a 5th District Democrat.

And, he said, "We are looking at the chancellor's corps he has hired and the high lease rate in their Towson office. We don't buy his argument that they have to be away from the campuses to avoid the appearance of favoritism."

Those comments came after council members met with Daniel J. LaVista, who became chancellor of the schools in June and has been criticized on several fronts, including the new offices and an employee buyout plan. Soon after he assumed leadership of the schools at Essex, Dundalk and Catonsville, he moved into offices that cost $80,000 a year to rent, spent $72,000 on remodeling and more on new furnishings.

Responding to the comments, system spokeswoman Deborah Hudson said, "We aren't going to communicate with the County Council via speculation. " Earlier, Dr. LaVista had told the council that his planned restructuring of Maryland's largest community college system will save an estimated $2.4 million to $3.3 million by fiscal 1998. Included in those savings, he said, will be approximately $1 million from the buyout offered to about 400 eligible faculty members and administrative staffers.

The schools serve an enrollment of 55,045 students -- more than half of them noncredit students.

The council's early thinking on budget issues was revealed after a work session with Dr. LaVista, board of trustees President Ronald G. Abe and Bruce J. Challiou, board vice president.

Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz, clearly unhappy with the financial direction of the system, said, "There is a perceived layer of bureaucracy there and I wonder about the efficiency of the Towson office. We don't want to micro-manage but we must examine the wisdom of how they spend it."

Mr. Kamenetz, a 2nd District Democrat who will direct the council's consideration of the community colleges' budget, said, have a lot more questions, but I want to reserve judgment until our auditors finish their look at the community colleges."

Pub Date: 3/27/96

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