School budget slash and burn Carroll County: Planning commission out of line on capital spending for education.

November 22, 1996

THE PLANNING and Zoning Commission in Carroll County, a constant center of controversy, is out of control. At least that's county Commissioner Donald Dell's opinion, although it is one that is gaining in popularity.

This time, the seven-member planning body is under fire for its slash-and-burn mentality toward the county schools capital budget, which includes construction, technology and repair projects. When it finished reviewing the schools request last week, the P&Z commission withheld approval for nearly everything, including computers, roof repairs -- even new schools. The body screens annual and five-year budget requests of county agencies and advises the three commissioners.

The county raised taxes -- twice in two years -- in large measure to fund needed school projects, Mr. Dell noted. The planning body "is getting into areas they aren't familiar with and they don't have the facts," he said.

There's nothing wrong with the planning commission trimming frills, or suggesting priorities for certain spending items. There is need for closer scrutiny of new school locations, which have led to recent problems. But this commission, rocked by resignations and expulsions, is acting with ill-disguised vengeance against the school system.

Its "expert" advice will undoubtedly be discarded by the commissioners, who will also get recommendations from the county budget office and from public hearings before drawing up the final budget next June. Commissioner Richard Yates, who never saw a budget cut he didn't like, has encouraged this petty parsimony as a member of the planning body, but his views are not shared by the two other commissioners.

If the P&Z cuts prevail, Carroll stands to lose millions of state dollars for school computers and construction projects that are already in the pipeline. Smaller projects that would accommodate disabled students, and meet federal law, also have been axed.

This year's exercise in budget nonsense may be good reason to do away with the P&Z review function, or to force it to rank county agency requests instead of making wholesale cuts before the commissioners see them. Without responsibility and credibility, the planning commission's budget hardly constitutes planning.

Pub Date: 11/22/96

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