Public safety, schools top proposed Harford budget Rehrmann to present $277.3 million plan

April 01, 1997|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

A growing school population and public safety continue to be the top priorities in Harford County, as County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann prepares to present her $277.3 million budget proposal to the County Council on Thursday morning.

The figure includes a $213.6 million operating budget -- with a 1.5 percent cost-of-living raise for employees -- in addition to $17.6 million in funds dedicated for water and sewers, $21.5 million for highways and $6.7 million for solid waste management.

"Harford County continues to experience good fiscal health," Rehrmann said yesterday. "We are continuing with a sound business plan in which education and public safety are our primary focus."

The overall budget represents an $11.2 million increase over last year's spending, without increasing the property tax of $2.73 per $100 of assessed value.

The largest share of the budget would go to the county's system of 49 schools, which continues to grow by almost 1,000 students a year. School funding would increase by $6.8 million.

But while Harford County schools' spokesman Donald R. Morrison labeled the proposal "generous," he said the total falls short of the $7.8 million increase school officials had requested.

"Between now and our presentation to the County Council, we will have to sit down and discuss how we might be able to redirect or restructure our plan," Morrison said. "We feel very positive about the fact that the county has always been very generous and has provided as much as they felt they could for us."

Rehrmann pointed out that, in addition to county money, the school system also will receive a $5.8 million increase in state funding. The exact number is still to be determined, because the General Assembly has not passed a state budget.

Within the county budget, the county executive has included language that earmarks a portion of the funds for specific projects, such as $1 million to upgrade technology in classrooms.

"In the past we have funded technology, and it has not found its way to the classroom," said Rehrmann, who added that in public hearings parents expressed a concern about technology available in the schools. "We felt it was very important that the money go for that, and we wanted to make sure that that is where it is spent."

The second-largest increase in funding will go to the Harford County Sheriff's Office, which will receive an additional $3.3 million and add 10 officers.

Within that budget is a plan for the formation of a juvenile unit that would assign a sheriff's deputy to each of the public high schools to work with at-risk students.

Rehrmann said that while the county has not experienced a major increase in juvenile problems, officials are aware that as the youth population increases nationwide, so has the incidence of crime and drug abuse.

Harford wants to be "proactive rather than reactive" in addressing those issues, she said.

"Whenever there is an increase in any population, there are more problems," Rehrmann said.

Pub Date: 4/01/97

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