Owens, council near end on budget

Final version to be passed tonight after weeks of discussing $730 million plan

May 27, 1999|By Matthew Mosk | Matthew Mosk,SUN STAFF

County Executive Janet S. Owens has engaged County Council members in the annual ritual of horse-trading, arm-twisting and brinkmanship that concludes tonight with passage of a final version of the county's $730 million budget.

After weeks of picking through details of Owens' spending plans, council members tried to chip away at her proposals yesterday looking to clear out waste and free up funds for key projects in their districts.

None of the changes reached in the fiscal 2000 budget's final days are likely to cut into the spending package for schools, or alter the tax rate, which remained unchanged from last year's.

But in the arduous closing hours of work, council members and the executive moved closer to deciding which new projects could be squeezed into the budget for final approval.

Among the range of proposals being considered: a Crofton library, several county firehouses, a Pasadena community center, and many ever-popular road repair jobs.

As council members filed one-by-one into Owens's fourth-floor office, the new county executive reminded them of the key items she wants left in the budget. Those included $3 million to buy and preserve agricultural land, funds for a $6.7 million road extension in Annapolis and a new arrangement for the staffing in her office.

Before driving away from the Arundel Center last evening, Owens looked worn from a day of bartering.

"It's getting down to the wire," she said. "Tomorrow is going to be a long, long day."

Her top priority, preserving $335.7 million devoted to the county's school system, appeared to be safe from harm in the process, she said.

"All of the Democrats were education candidates, so I don't expect much dissension there," she said.

More endangered is a handful of politically charged issues that are of special interest to particular council members.

Councilwoman Barbara D. Samoracjzyk, an Annapolis Democrat, spent a good portion of the day lobbying to prevent the county from laying down a new road next to the residential neighborhood of Gingerville.

It's a road Owens wants to help ease traffic in the bustling Annapolis business corridor along Riva Road.

Samoracjzyk said she hopes other council members support her objections to the road, but recognizes that Owens has a great deal of sway.

"It's really tough," Samoracjzyk said. "I won't know how it comes out until all the votes are called."

Councilman Clifford R. Roop, a Severna Park Republican, said his focus would be on gaining funding for Kinder Park, a county facility that would include ball fields, open space and a museum devoted to farming.

"Funding for the museum is crucial," Roop said Tuesday, polishing the pitch he would make to the county executive. "It's the theme of the whole project. Without it, this would be just another park."

Councilmen Bill D. Burlison, an Odenton Democrat, and John J. Klocko III, a Crofton Republican, want library branches for their districts. Shirley Murphy, a Pasadena Democrat, was pushing for a new community center.

And Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr., a Democrat, wanted to secure funding for a parking garage in the Glen Burnie town center.

"It's a difficult, time-consuming process," said Samoracjzyk, one of six new council members who, with Owens, was dealing with her first county budget.

"The pressure is intense," Samoracjzyk said. "But you have to learn to come to consensus. Without reaching a consensus, you're just not going to succeed."

Pub Date: 5/27/99

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