Not much sought, plenty gained From school aid to jail renovation money, county fared well in Annapolis.

April 10, 1997

FROM ANNE ARUNDEL County's perspective, this year's session of the General Assembly was a success. The county began with a modest agenda, and most of it was approved.

The legislature passed several measures that will aid the administration of county government. Residents will now be able to use credit or debit cards to pay a variety of public fees and services, from tax bills to admissions charges at parks and swimming pools.

For the county to file a tax lien against a property, the owner must owe at least $100, instead of the current minimum of $15. The county also was granted the ability to create the Tipton Airport Authority to operate the airfield the U.S. Army turned over to the county at Fort George G. Meade.

As for bringing home the pork, the county delegation delivered. The $8.4 million earmarked to renovate the Jennifer Road detention center in Parole made it through the appropriations process unscathed. As part of the Baltimore City school settlement package, Anne Arundel County will receive $7.8 million in additional education aid.

The legislature also allocated $1 million to begin the rehabilitation of Wiley H. Bates High School in Annapolis as well as $300,000 to convert the now-empty Brooklyn Middle School into a community center.

Also approved were appropriations to repair the Capt. Salem Avery House in Shady Side and the historic Charles Carroll and Maynard Burgess houses in Annapolis. The Lloyd Keaser

Community Center in Pumphrey will receive $100,000 for air-conditioning.

Two pieces of pro-economic development legislation were shot down when parochial interests won out: The effort to repeal the ban on Sunday car sales never got to the floor. A bill that would have allowed chain restaurants to own multiple liquor licenses also was defeated.

The county will also reap considerable benefits from the larger statewide issues that preoccupied the legislature this session.

The governor's "Smart Growth" policy dovetails with the county's development plan and the phased-in 10 percent income-tax cut for all Marylanders will play well in a county concerned enough about the tax burden to approve a cap on taxes a few years ago.


Taking stock of legislative largess

Carroll County: Ag Center bonds welcome, but five-commissioner board is political ploy.

MORE COMMISSIONERS, more bond money, more funds for schools. That was the questionable largess for Carroll County from the 1997 General Assembly session just ended.

There are conditions attached. The authorized increase in county commissioners to five (from three) must be approved by Carroll voters in the November 1998 general election. The $300,000 in state bonds approved for the County Agriculture Center must be matched by local fund raising. The $406,000 a year in extra school funds came only as a token offset for the far larger school aid package and management overhaul for Baltimore City schools.

The bond money for a multi-purpose building at the Agriculture Center outside Westminster is well deserved; recent efforts by the center's board have already collected pledges and donations of more than $300,000. The $1.5 million expansion should be ready in time for the 1998 summer 4-H/Future Farmers of America County Fair. Legislative leaders say they would support another $300,000 bond for the project next year, assuring its timely completion.

Despite the initial squabbling over whose name should be listed as sponsor, the delegation finally pulled together to win solid approval for the bond issue from the legislature. It was the priority item for Carroll. The 37,000-square-foot building will bolster the county's year-round conference and tourism potential, as well as enhancing the farm fair.

The referendum question to expand the number of county commissioners to five was the pure invention of the six-member legislative delegation, not a request from the county government or the voters.

Del. Donald B. Elliott pushed the bill to expand representation in the county, but refused to allow election of the commissioners by district (which would increase representation). Despite his protests, the bill is a blatant attempt to confuse and thwart the grass-roots movement to win charter government for this

metropolitan county. A proposed charter also will be on the 1998 ballot, as a result of a successful petition drive concluded last month.

The school money for Carroll is insignificant. The county's true need is for multi-million-dollar funding for new schools, which has often met with frustration in Annapolis.

n Pub Date: 4/10/97

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