Capital budget input sought Commissioner Dell wants to be involved earlier in the process

'Asking for 3 boring days'

Board would attend Oct. hearings where funding is requested

August 14, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

County Commissioner Donald I. Dell wants commissioners to have a greater role in developing Carroll's annual capital budget for building and other projects.

But that idea was greeted cooly yesterday by members of the Planning and Zoning Commission, who review capital improvement requests each fall.

The planning board spends three days each October listening to department heads plead for funding for their projects. They then forward their recommendations to the County Commissioners who have responsibility for approving the budget.

"I am asking for three boring days," said Dell, who suggested the measure during a briefing on the capital budget process yesterday. "I want to hear why department heads are asking for funding, and I want to hear why the commission recommends for or against it."

The hearings are set for Oct. 1, 2 and 7. The capital improvements budget typically outlines spending for new schools, building additions and renovations and other improvements. This year's $82.4 million budget includes projects ranging from parkland acquisition to road and bridge improvements.

"What's wrong with the County Commissioners sitting in on the planning commission hearings?" Dell asked.

Maybe plenty, some planning commission members say.

"We already have a commissioner" sitting on the panel, said Joseph H. Mettle, a planning board member. "The [County] Commissioners will eventually get their way on the budget, so why not let the citizens -- us -- do our part first?"

David T. Duree, planning commission chairman, said members are concerned about the separation of powers.

"They will want to keep the budget-formulation process separate from the budget-adoption process," he said.

For the most part, other planning commission members agreed with that assessment.

However, members Thomas G. Hiltz and Robin M. Frazier said the commissioners are entitled to attend the hearings and make observations.

"The main advantage is that they would hear our conversation" leading to the vote on whether to recommend projects in the capital budget, Frazier said.

"The more the merrier," said Hiltz. "If they are interested in sitting in to get more information [before voting on a proposed budget], that's commendable." But if commissioners want to do more than observe and offer an occasional comment, they should formally request a change in the process, he said.

"It is our process [now]. If it needs to be changed, it needs to be discussed," Hiltz said. "If they want to define a larger role for themselves, they should send a request for us to consider."

Dell did not spell out how he would like the commissioners to participate.

But when county Budget Director Steven D. Powell suggested that Commissioner Richard T. Yates, who already sits on the planning board, could act as liaison to the other two commissioners, Dell balked.

"It never worked when I was on the planning commission," Dell said, noting that the commissioners were always attending to other items on their own agenda.

Pub Date: 8/14/96

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