No comment

March 04, 2003

THE BALTIMORE County School Board adopted an $891 million spending plan at its regular public meeting last week with not even a breath of discussion.

Picture that.

And this: It's a place-holder budget -- school officials don't know whether their operating plan is achievable or their bottom line real, and won't know until the state figures out how much aid it will give counties, and yet ... no comment.

Should county residents take this to mean that the board is all talked out, having debated the issues in previous forums, public and private? That they agree lockstep with every provision in what's a very provisional budget? That they have it all figured out, including Plan B for what will be sacrificed if the actual budget comes in low?

Don't know. They didn't say.

At times like these, silence is a first cousin of secrecy -- something this board knows about. Back in January, to avoid assembling a quorum that by law would require meeting publicly, some board members went to see Superintendent Joe A. Hairston in small groups to discuss the budget. Later, they invited the public to five budget meetings, a work session with the superintendent, and a hearing (on a date conflicting with the county PTA Council's annual meeting).

But they still haven't shaken the public's suspicion that everything that should be said about the budget in public hasn't been. They just don't get it. No comment.

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