Session results please leaders

County gets increases in aid, school funding from General Assembly

`We did very well'

Moyer wins approval to expand Annapolis public housing board

April 10, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County received increases in state aid for schools and other government services, and the city of Annapolis won approval to expand its public housing board, leading local officials to declare the General Assembly session that ended Monday a success.

"We did very well," Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens said yesterday, reflecting on a session that started with worries that a grant to make up for lost property tax revenue would be slashed, but ended with beefed-up state contributions to county government.

State legislators allocated $287 million to the county in direct aid and grants for the fiscal year that begins July 1, an increase of more than $11 million over last year. State aid for county public schools was set at $183.2 million, up by more than $9 million from a year ago.

Owens also said she was "thrilled" that legislators allocated $1 million to expand a two-year-old teacher mentoring program that places veteran teachers in schools staffed by younger teachers. This year, 21 mentors are working in 17 schools. They help younger teachers with lesson planning and classroom management.

"The education money will make a real difference for our children," Owens said.

Also yesterday, Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer applauded the city's success in making its priorities known to lawmakers.

"We were successful on every front," she said.

Moyer said she was pleased that legislation to increase the city Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners from five to seven members was approved. While critics contended the expansion was designed to increase Moyer's power and enable the ouster of the authority's executive director, P. Holden Croslan, the mayor said the larger board would promote diversity and bring in members with expertise in particular areas, such as banking and community service.

She said she was relieved the Assembly decided not to set a cap on the state's historic tax credit program, which could have impeded preservation efforts in the state capital.

Moyer said Annapolis would benefit from the creation of a task force to examine putting utilities underground and the restoration of funding for statewide programs the city participates in, including the Emergency Medical System, the 911 Emergency Number Fund and the Community Legacy Program.

For county officials, the session started ominously, when Gov. Parris N. Glendening's budget proposal included plans to scrap property tax breaks to utility companies - along with a grant program meant to offset losses to counties with power plants on their tax rolls.

For Anne Arundel County, that would have meant a loss of $8 million.

"The money was of paramount importance," said Owens, who was counting on the grant to balance her budget.

Sen. Robert R. Neall, a Crofton Democrat and former Republican county executive, said that members of the Assembly believed that the tax break and grant programs should remain in place at least until next year, when legislators are to take another look at them.

"It wasn't even an issue in the conference committee," he said, referring to a group of legislators from the House and Senate who meet at the end of the session to work out differences between their versions of the bills.

The Owens administration also backed a handful of bills that were adopted during the session, including one that makes it a misdemeanor for inmates at correctional facilities across the state to expose themselves to prison guards with the intent to annoy, harass or embarrass. The crime is punishable by a $1,000 fine and a three-year prison term.

The Assembly also approved a bill sponsored by Del. John R. Leopold, a Pasadena Republican, designed to ensure that prospective homebuyers in Anne Arundel County are advised to consult county agencies to check for pending capital projects, such as road extensions or new housing tracks.

"It took three years, but it finally passed," Leopold said. "Over the past 20 years, certain communities have been blindsided by capital projects they knew nothing about. They thought the woods behind their houses would always be there, and then they are gone."

Sun staff writers Amanda J. Crawford and Stephen Kiehl contributed to this article.

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