Budget raises school spending Gary wouldn't raise property tax rate

May 01, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary will send a budget to the County Council today that holds the property tax rate steady and adds $59 million in spending, including a boost in school funding while he keeps some control over how school money is spent.

The proposed $881 million operating budget is 7 percent larger than this year's $822 million spending plan. It includes $698.6 million raised through county taxes and fees, $154 million in state and federal aid to schools, $25.8 million aid to Anne Arundel Community College and $2.6 million in library aid.

Gary would give the schools $28 million of the $59 million -- $17 million for operating money and $11 million for school construction. But Gary also put part of the school money in a contingency fund he controls and said he would release it to the schools only if officials use it to hire teachers.

Similarly, in his proposed capital budget he said he would release $8.4 million for the construction of a Davidsonville Elementary School only if the school board builds it where he wants it and the way he wants it.

The tactic of holding money in contingency is "childish," board member Joseph Foster said.

"If he wants to be on the school board, he should run for the school board," Foster said after hearing the budget numbers via phone. "He's always trying to second-guess people after the fact."

In all, Gary proposed giving schools far less than the board's request and will hurt students, Foster said.

Gary said his budget is good for students because it provides money for 41 new teachers, as long as the board uses the money on teachers. The board's priority list would have funded more than $35 million in teacher raises and other expenses before hiring teachers.

"It was astounding to see what they gave us," Gary said of the school board's request for more than $60 million in new funding this year. "In spite of our differences we are still giving the school system the biggest increase in the budget."

While the school system requested money to hire 97.6 classroom, reading and electives teachers, the requests came after $35 million in requests for teacher raises, health-insurance costs and other expenses.

Gary said he could not bring himself to fund those expenses at the top of the board's priority list.

School system spokeswoman Jane Doyle said that neither she nor other school officials could comment before Gary made an official announcement.

Gary's proposal also includes $130.6 million for public safety, an increase of $12.9 million.

He proposes hiring 25 officers and transferring six officers who serve criminal warrants to street patrol duty.

In announcing $46.2 million for the community college, he praised the institution as "a gem" and noted that tuition would remain steady for the fifth straight year.

Although the property tax rate remains at $2.38 per $100 of assessed valuation, taxes for most homeowners will increase because property values have increased.

Gary also proposed a $200.7 million capital budget for big-ticket TC projects -- including construction for South County Middle School, Belvedere, Davidsonville and Mayo Elementary schools -- up from about $176 million this fiscal year.

Pub Date: 5/01/98

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