State funding provides boost for the schools

Board will be able to hire more teachers, aides

Robey earmarks $1 million

Will aid operating budget, land acquisition fund

May 17, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County Executive James N. Robey is using just over $1 million in newly awarded state school construction money to further increase local school spending.

The money will enable the school board to hire four more special education teachers and six aides, including one teacher and one aide for the Cedar Lane school for disabled students, and another for the new Homewood school for troubled children, according to Deputy Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin.

It also reduces the $6 million gap between the school board's total request for next year and what Robey proposed spending in his $824 million budget, which is due to be voted on by the County Council on May 22.

"It helps," Cousin said, explaining that $300,000 will go to a fund for land acquisition, while the other $750,000 will free more funding for the operating budget.

The state Board of Public Works recently decided to give Howard an extra $4.5 million for school construction. Robey plans to use county funds previously earmarked for those purposes for other projects.

He announced Wednesday that the county would spend $100,000 to put a new roof on the Blandair mansion in Columbia, and $300,000 to plan renovations in the Circuit Court building. One million dollars would be used to reduce borrowing for school construction. The rest likely would go for deferred road resurfacing and sidewalk projects.

"I think it's wonderful," said school board Chairwoman Jane B. Schuchardt. "I hoped we'd get the whole $4.5 million, but I understand. It's going to stretch our staff."

Although Robey did not propose a tax increase and revenues were low because of the recession, his proposed budget included an extra $16.3 million for schools. Several departments suffered reductions in this year's budget, including Public Works and Recreation and Parks.

The County Council is due to discuss final budget cuts late Monday, and Chairman C. Vernon Gray, an east Columbia Democrat, said that although he would like to see even more go to schools, he has not examined Robey's latest moves.

"At first blush, I would expect that at least two-thirds of that $4.5 million would go to schools," he said.

Ellicott City Republican Christopher J. Merdon said he agrees with Robey's approach.

"I think he's doing it the right way. The thing I was most happy about was reducing the bonds by $1 million. We didn't take the whole pot and go out and spend it."

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