Transfer of power in county, state inevitable, neededWith...


January 25, 1998

Transfer of power in county, state inevitable, needed

With the new year, much has been made about the impending transfer of county government and important county institutions to new leadership. With this transfer, we will see the rise of the next generation of leadership in both Howard County and Maryland.

Such a transfer is not only an inevitable product of time, but it is needed if we are to confront the problems facing the region today.

Rapid growth has brought with it problems of crowded schools, roads and strained services and environmental controls. These issues must be addressed in a fiscally responsible way so the burden isn't shifted to future generations.

Our community has never had so much opportunity to shape its destiny. Let's make the right choices.

#William C. Woodcock Jr.

Ellicott City

Article, editorial on school budget erred

The Jan. 7 article "School budget increase of 7.2% sought" contained a number of factual errors that were subsequently reflected in a Jan. 12 editorial, "Surplus, schools and sanitation."

First and foremost, Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's proposed fiscal 1999 operating budget of $271.5 million represents an $18 million, or 7.2 percent, increase over the current year's school system budget.

This is not the largest increase ever requested by the superintendent in percent or actual dollars. For fiscal 1990, Dr. Hickey requested an increase of nearly $22 million, which represented a 16.2 percent increase; and for fiscal 1991, his request represented a $24 million increase, or 15.7 percent.

In addition, a number of specifics of the superintendent's budget proposal were misreported.

Approximately $7 million, not $4 million, of the proposal targets "maintenance of effort," which includes staffing and materials of instruction for growth. Dr. Hickey's proposal calls for hiring 232 school employees, including one principal, four assistant principals, 89 teachers, 67 instructional assistants and 11 health assistants.

Approximately $3 million of the superintendent's request provides for new initiatives.

Of that amount, $120,000 (not $176,000) is designated to improve and expand the health services delivery system; $270,000 is targeted at underachieving students; more than $1 million would be used to improve school system technology; $160,000 would meet the system's growing need for human resource development; and more than $800,000, including $460,000 for contractlike rooms in local schools, would address disruptive student behavior and school safety issues.

Approximately $242,000 would fund comprehensive changes, as recommended in the middle school evaluation, such as an automated report card system and an expansion of the middle school reading program.

However, it should be noted that some recommendations from that evaluation were funded in the current year's budget and are already being implemented.

During the past seven years, in recognition of the dire financial circumstances facing the state and the county, the school system neither sought nor received funding beyond the minimum amount required by law.

The only exception was for the current fiscal year, when the school system received $800,000 in additional county funds. Local and national economic forecasts suggest now is the time to address the resulting erosion of programs as well as the growing needs of our schools.

Patti Caplan

Ellicott City

The writer is public information officer for Howard County Public Schools.

With new megaplex, show varied movies

On Jan. 11, David Mark reported on the opening of the Snowden Square 14 Megaplex in Columbia ("New movie theater getting good reviews").

I, like many Howard countians, eagerly awaited the arrival of a third theater complex in the area. My family and I have been to the new theater twice and have enjoyed the stadium seating and other amenities.

Nonetheless, I must admit disappointment that the opening of the new complex brought the same movies playing at the Sony Theaters and the General Cinema Theaters.

I was hoping that we would be offered the opportunity to see some of the independent and foreign films such as "The Full Monty," "The Wings of the Dove" and "Mrs. Brown." Howard countians have to travel to Montgomery or Baltimore counties or Washington or Baltimore to catch such flicks.

It seems to me that one of the three theater complexes could dedicate one or two screens to such fare. I would think a sufficient market exists in Howard to justify a change in policy.

I would much prefer spending my money locally than having to drive 30 to 45 minutes each way to see the small, nonblockbuster films.

ichael Huphner

Ellicott City

Ellicott Mills Middle badly needs repairs

As parents of future Ellicott Mills Middle School students, we propose that some of the county's $412 million surplus be allocated to the Howard County Board of Education to renovate and build new schools.

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