Few council members attend school fund talks Board wants to use money to cover some shortfalls

crowding also discussed

June 12, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel School Superintendent Carol S. Parham, two school board members and various assistants and administrators crowded a County Council work session yesterday expecting a verbal tussle over usually routine requests for end-of-the-fiscal-year fund shifts.

In a year marked by acrimony among school and county officials over how the school system spends money and whether the county can control that spending, no budget discussions have been routine.

But only four council members attended the morning session at the Arundel Center, and only two remained to discuss the school's budget.

"We were expecting incoming, and I think these are legitimate questions," said board member Thomas E. Florestano.

School officials want to use $13.2 million in surplus revenues in some budget categories to cover shortfalls in others.

They need $4.9 million to cover costs in special education programs, for example, $2.2 million to pay salaries and $2.6 million for fixed costs such as employee health insurance.

It was the health care transfer that raised questions with County Councilman William C. Mulford II of Annapolis, who noted that if the board had $3.37 million left in its health care reserve fund, the council must have given the schools too much money.

But Gregory V. Nourse, acting superintendent of finance, countered that a shortfall of $1.9 million in a different health care fund demonstrated the opposite.

"Were there overexpenditures or were there underfundings?" Mulford asked.

"There were both," Nourse conceded. "I don't disagree with you at all. We agree that there are problems and we are going to try to make it work."

In other business, the county planning director defended the county's policy of approving residential subdivisions, blaming the board for school crowding because of its reluctance to redistrict to meet population shifts.

A bill to temporarily ban new subdivisions in areas where schools are filled to capacity is unnecessary because the students who live in those subdivisions are a small portion of the entire school population, said Steve Cover, director of planning and code enforcement.

Councilwoman Diane R. Evans, sponsor of the bill, has proposed a ban on issuing permits for new subdivisions in areas where schools are crowded until December while a committee appointed by the county executive examines school crowding issues.

Residents or developers who want to subdivide property in areas where schools are filled to capacity must apply for waivers to the adequacy of school facilities requirements.

Evans, a Democrat who is campaigning to unseat County Executive John G. Gary this fall, blames a 1996 policy statement by Gary for "liberalizing" the policy for granting waivers and JTC leading to more school crowding.

She has asked repeatedly when Gary will rescind that policy.

Pub Date: 6/12/98

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