Howard ranks high in schools allocation

Baltimore, Frederick also atop governor's construction budget list

May 08, 2001|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Baltimore City and fast-growing Frederick County joined Howard yesterday as big winners in next year's $295 million school construction budget as Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced his spending priorities across the state.

The money brings total spending on school construction since Glendening took office to nearly $1.5 billion - putting him within easy striking distance of the $1.6 billion goal he set early in his administration.

"We're going to absolutely shatter that goal," the governor said.

The recommendations go to the Board of Public Works tomorrow, but approval is considered a formality.

The budget continues the governor's emphasis on funding renovations or expansions of existing schools. Only 21 percent of the money went to new construction projects.

Glendening said targeting spending in existing neighborhoods rather than "out there somewhere" was a facet of his Smart Growth initiative. By focusing on older communities, he said, the state can diminish the pressure on young couples with children to move to the outer suburbs.

Baltimore led the state with $46.6 million in construction aid - $25.7 million of it announced yesterday. State Del. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said it was the second straight year the city hit the jackpot. "Two years in a row, that's a really important commitment," the Baltimore Democrat said.

Howard was second in the Baltimore metropolitan area with a record $25 million, $8.3 million of it new. Anne Arundel County also fared well as $5.3 million in new projects, including $4.2 million for an addition to North County High School, brought its total to $20.7 million.

Baltimore County received a relatively modest $18.7 million. That was largely because its request was modest. Yale Stenzler, state school construction chief, said the county asked for less money this year because it has a backlog of projects in the pipeline.

The figures announced yesterday brought benefits to several of the state's fastest-growing jurisdictions. Carroll County received $8.3 million, one of its largest allocations ever, including $5 million toward construction of a new Westminster-area high school the state had turned down in previous years.

Harford County received an additional $1.6 million for a new Aberdeen High School, bringing the county's total for the year to $8.4 million. "This bodes well for our county," said Harford County Executive James M. Harkins. "Tearing down the old high school and building a new one proved less costly than a patchwork approach. What we asked the state Board of Public Works for in school construction funding, we got."

The biggest winner for its size was Frederick County, which received $25.7 million, including $2.8 million in newly announced projects.

State school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said the spending in the growing counties was justified. "Frederick had such an accelerating population. It's just extremely, extremely challenging," she said. "In Howard, we also have that level of growth."

About three-quarters of the state's school construction money is allocated by the Interagency Committee on School Construction. The quarter announced yesterday was determined by the governor in consultation with the agency.

This is the part of the money that is the subject of the annual event known as the "Begathon," in which school administrators, local officials and lawmakers from around the state go before the Board of Public Works to plead for their pet projects.

Prince George's and Montgomery counties received $45.8 million and $45 million respectively.

But Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan issued a statement calling the county's allocation "disappointing." He said his budget had assumed the county would receive $50 million, as it has for the past three years.

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