Gary backs school budget Executive won't fight Parham's plan to shift capital project funds

'Pleased' with proposal

Agreement follows recent differences about board spending

September 03, 1998|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

There has been a change in attitude at the Arundel Center.

County Executive John G. Gary was not angered by the capital budget schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham presented to the school board yesterday, even if she intends to spend part of the money he set aside for a new Mayo Elementary School on other projects.

In fact, he's "pleased with her proposal," said his spokeswoman Lisa Ritter.

Gary had put $7 million into a special account for a new Mayo Elementary School in Edgewater. But under Parham's $43 million spending plan for fiscal year 2000, $2.2 million of that will be used to develop plans for a new Glendale Elementary School in Glen Burnie and to renovate science laboratories and put walls in open-space classroom areas at South River High School.

The remaining $4.8 million will be used to develop building plans for Mayo Elementary.

"Mr. Gary has walked through Glendale, he knows what needs to be done with it," Ritter said. "And he realizes that the science labs need to be upgraded at South River High School."

Glendale, on Carroll Road, is one of three schools ranked as most in need of maintenance work by the school system. Leaky windows, peeling paint, rusty sinks and outdated electrical systems make it next to impossible for students to learn, parents say.

The other two maintenance problems -- Brooklyn Park Middle and Belvedere Elementary -- are empty while renovations are under way.

This "no-problem" attitude is an about-face for Gary, who holds the county purse strings and has been harshly critical of school ++ spending.

A month ago, Gary demanded a state audit of the board's finances and said he was suspicious of the way the school board handled its money. In May, he accused the board of padding its operating budget proposal and said Parham bowed to the board's unreasonable request in exchange for her contract renewal.

Although the school board had no plans to build a new Mayo Elementary until after 2000, Gary put the $7 million aside for it knowing that state law does not allow a school to be built without school board approval.

Ritter said that Gary has not changed his mind and only funded Mayo Elementary because it was next after Davidsonville on a list of elementary schools to be built.

"He fully supports her proposal," Ritter said. "What they [school officials] have done is change their priorities, and he agrees with her."

Parham's office faxed Gary her budget proposal early yesterday, Ritter said. But last night, Parham said she did not know that Gary agreed with her budget until a reporter told her.

"I think Mr. Gary has always recognized the importance of capital projects for the welfare of the students," she said. "I was hopeful that he would see my attempt to maximize the money for many of our needs."

Under previous plans, the school system was not going spend the $100,000 needed for a preliminary study of renovating Glendale until 2001 and no work could have started until at least 2002. Parham said she was able to move Glendale up because the middle school feasibility study was not complete and that knocked other schools lower on her list.

Cindy Thompson, a Glendale parent and president of the Citizens Advisory Committee, worked for months to get the school on the construction plan.

"Mr. Gary had told us in July when he toured the school that if the board asked for the money, he would give it to them," she said. "And Parham called me on Tuesday to tell me she was going to move the school up the priority list. She came to look at the school" last month.

Thompson said she thought the holdup would be with the school board because of the budget feud. The board, after a public hearing on Sept. 16, will vote on Parham's budget in early October. Glendale parents plan to attend the hearing to plead with the board for its approval.

Pub Date: 9/03/98

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