Delegation anticipates tough year for funding

Lawmakers warn local groups may get less state money

January 27, 2002|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Members of Carroll County's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly delivered another in a long line of bleak economic forecasts yesterday morning at a meeting with citizens.

Laying blame on Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who they say has shifted funds to favorite programs at the expense of vital services, members of the all-Republican delegation said Carroll organizations should not expect much state money this year.

The proposed budget offers a mere $15 million for nonprofits and the like and Carroll County must compete with the rest of the state for those funds. Sen. Larry E. Haines said Carroll would be lucky to see even $300,000. With county nonprofits likely to request about $1.6 million in bond funding, the equation simply doesn't work out, he said.

"It's going to be a pretty tough year."

Yesterday's public hearing, held at the county office building in Westminster, gave delegation members a chance to describe the county-specific bills they might introduce this legislative session and gave citizens a chance to voice concerns, specific and general.

With few pieces of specific legislation on the table, lawmakers and citizens spent the bulk of the meeting criticizing Glendening's budget management.

"He's out of control the way he's throwing money around," said Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson, summing up the thrust of the discussion.

Delegation members said Glendening's desire to increase spending would create major gaps in funding for programs including the state's retirement, Medicare and nursing care systems. They described an Annapolis in which many Democrats have joined Republicans in general disgust with the governor's methods.

"We all feel we're in a real pickle," Del. Joseph M. Getty said.

Some Carroll-specific bills drew light comment from the audience of about 10 people.

Weed control laws

Based on a request from the county commissioners, the delegation might introduce a bill that would reduce the county's role in mowing noxious weeds on private property. The Health Department monitors weed growth, but under current law, if weeds grow to a foot or higher and a health inspector hasn't intervened, the county can step in and mow the weeds. The commissioners want the intervention minimum raised to 2 feet because of the many mowing requests from residents.

But many people, including some members of the delegation, say the bill is unnecessary because the Health Department manages the weed situation effectively.

"I think the law we have serves us well," said South Carroll activist and commissioner candidate Neil Ridgely. "The Health Department does a good job with it."

Advertising meetings

The delegation also has resisted an attempt by the commissioners to make newspaper advertising for certain county purchases optional. The commissioners wanted requirements revised to say they could advertise either in a newspaper or on the Carroll County government Web site.

"For now, I don't want to see us eliminate newspaper advertising," Haines said. "A lot of elderly people sit there all day and read the newspaper. That's the only way they get their information."

The delegation also will consider authorizing the county to sell $22.6 million in bonds for next fiscal year. The bond money would fund school maintenance, farmland preservation and road improvements. Del. Donald B. Elliott wondered why the bond issue, not yet approved by the commissioners, would not include construction funds for a new middle school in Mount Airy. Although a feasibility study might be made next year, the Mount Airy project won't begin until at least the next budget cycle, said county budget director Steven D. Powell.

The delegation will meet this week and vote on which county-specific bills it will introduce.

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