School aid most ever in county

Governor announces record $13.2 million for construction

`It's Christmas'

New Meade Middle, renovation of four buildings included

May 13, 1999|By Michael Dresser and Kris Antonelli | Michael Dresser and Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel officials were elated yesterday at news the county will receive a record $13.2 million in state school construction aid next year, including money for a new Meade Middle School and renovation of South River High and Davidsonville and Glendale elementary schools.

"It's Christmas for Anne Arundel," said County Executive Janet S. Owens.

Owens, who won election in November after pledging to get more state money for school building, kept that promise, snagging 42 percent more money than the county got this year.

Owens, a Democrat like Gov. Parris N. Glendening, pulled in substantially more than the county got throughout the four-year administration of John G. Gary, a Republican. Gary received $3 million to $4 million a year.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's editions said Anne Arundel County will receive state school construction aid for building a new Meade Middle School. The state aid actually will reimburse the district for money already spent on the middle school, which opened last year.
The Sun regrets the errors.

She is on track to meet a goal of $50 million in state school aid over four years. "Historically, Anne Arundel never asked for what was needed," Owens said.

Overall, Baltimore and its five suburban counties fared well in what Glendening called a "golden age of school construction," getting $101 million out of $257 million doled out statewide. The total is about 20 percent more than the region received this year.

Baltimore will get $25 million, a $7.5 million increase over this year.

Baltimore County received the full $30 million Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger requested. Howard County will rake in $16 million, a 19 percent gain. And Carroll County officials received $6.7 million toward construction of a new high school in fast-growing Eldersburg.

For Anne Arundel, said Democratic Del. Joan Cadden, "I think the difference this year is that we all came together, the delegation, the county executive, school board and the County Council. We were determined to get our fair share."

School Superintendent Carol Parham, who has worked closely with Owens, said she was happy, though not surprised.

"It's double what we have received in the past," Parham said. "It's excellent, and I really appreciated the work that our delegation has done advocating on behalf of the school system. This is just evidence of the good work that is being done."

The money is a good start toward knocking down a $400 million school construction and maintenance backlog compiled by a citizens committee under Gary, said Art Ebersberger, the group's chairman. He helped write a report suggesting that county officials be more aggressive in seeking state funds.

"The Board of Education is working cooperatively with the House and the Senate," he said. "And some people may complain that it is not their school that is being repaired with this money, but we all know that the list is not short."

The $13.2 million from the state includes $1.7 million for a new Meade Middle, nearly $2.24 million for renovation of South River High and another $627,000 for science labs at that school. The total includes $2.24 million for a new Piney Orchard Elementary, and money for computer wiring in 16 schools and roofs on four schools.

The state also approved the start of planning for renovation of Mayo and Glendale elementaries.

"It is really great to see that Mayo and Glendale got their local planning money, so next year they will probably get their construction money," Cadden said. "And those projects can go move on from here. It will keep our cycle going."

Opponents have frequently criticized Glendening for using the allocation of school construction funds for political leverage. At yesterday's event, he seemed to enjoy keeping his foes guessing.

As he has before, the governor hinted that jurisdictions whose legislators opposed his budget might have received less favorable consideration than others.

At the same time, he denied that the generous increases for Howard and Anne Arundel counties were connected to their swing to the Democrats in November.

"I don't think this is about Republican and Democrat," the governor said. But with a grin, he nodded toward Owens and Howard County Executive James N. Robey and seemed to suggest otherwise.

"It hasn't hurt being a Democrat," Owens said.

One conspicuous no-show was Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, whose relations with Glendening have been chilly since Schmoke endorsed one of the governor's primary opponents last year. But state Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, the city delegation chairman, hailed Glendening for keeping a commitment to boost the city's award.

The spending announced yesterday was the final $69.8 million installment in the state's $257.5 million school spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The Board of Public Works has already approved projects totaling $187.7 million. Yesterday's announcement was the one that told the counties whether they had met their goals.

Glendening emphasized that 90 percent of the school construction funding in metropolitan Baltimore was for projects in areas designated for development under his Smart Growth anti-sprawl policy. Statewide, 84 percent of the money will go to renovations and additions, while 16 percent will pay for new schools.

Pub Date: 5/13/99

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