Balto. Co. OKs most funds for education

Council criticizes school officials for overspending

April 06, 1999|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Sharply criticizing school officials for overspending their budget this year, the Baltimore County Council last night gave the school system most of the $6.1 million needed to cover its deficit.

"I just want to stress over and over that this is not acceptable in any way, shape or form," said council member Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat. "I do not want this to become a habit of the Board of Education."

School officials blame the deficit in their $645 million 1998-1999 operating budget primarily on excessive costs for personnel and special education. Much of the overspending in personnel is due to jobs that were supposed to be eliminated but never were cut.

School officials imposed a hiring freeze in January and delayed purchasing some equipment.

But without the extra $6.1 million, schools Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione warned of severe cuts that would likely affect the classroom.

"We are between a rock and a hard place," complained council member Stephen G. Sam Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat. "If we don't give you the money, we know it's going to come out of the schools, and the County Council will be the ones that are taking away from education."

Council members voted to cut the request for extra money by $645,000 -- an amount that the council cut in May from the school system's budget for health insurance and sick leave benefits. The school board adjusted its budget to cover the benefits anyway, which still angers council members.

"Our only tool for accountability is our fiscal authority," said council Chairman Kevin B. Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat. "If we cut it out and it is funded anyway, then we have lost that authority."

Council members unanimously voted to cut the $645,000 out of the mid-level administration category in the school system's request.

After the meeting, Marchione said he did not know where the money would come from, though he said he was certain it would not affect the classroom. "It will have to be a central office cut somewhere," he said.

The council elected to withdraw a proposal to limit the sale of cars on public streets.

Council members are concerned that some neighborhood streets have become the equivalent of used-car lots, lined with cars that have "for sale" signs in the windows.

The bill before the council last night would have prohibited putting a "for sale" sign on a car or truck parked within 35 feet of another vehicle "being offered for sale and parked on the same side of the road, highway, street or alley." Violators would have faced fines of up to $200 a day.

But Kamenetz said council members need "to fine-tune some issues regarding the parking and allow more public comment on any proposed amendments." A new bill likely will be introduced this month or in the beginning of May, with the council voting on it in May or June.

Pub Date: 4/06/99

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