Balto. County to offer fewer free rides for workers

School district plans to reduce take-home fleet, reimburse for mileage

`Makes a lot of sense'

April 20, 2004|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

Sixteen of 52 Baltimore County school administrators with district-owned cars are turning in their keys this month in response to a year-old County Council concern that the district's fleet is unnecessarily expensive.

The district plans to sell many of the cars, but will keep some for employees to use during work hours.

School officials have determined that it is cheaper to reimburse employees for using their personal cars if they are driving fewer than 10,000 miles a year on school business, said Rita Fromm, executive director of planning and support operations.

Superintendent Joe A. Hairston and his two deputies, Christine M. Johns and J. Robert Haines, will not be subject to the 10,000-mile cutoff and can keep their district-owned cars, Fromm said.

The Baltimore City school system also is selling some of its vehicles to cut costs. It is planning to auction as many as 84 vehicles.

Unlike the city school system, which is under pressure to eliminate a major deficit, the county school district is responding to a recommendation that the County Council made in its budget message in May of last year.

The council asked the school system to reassess its take-home car policy, which allows some employees to use district cars for commuting and district business.

It noted a study by an independent consultant who recommended that the school system reduce its total fleet from 85 cars to 20, with 12 take-home cars and eight pool cars.

The school system's budget is again before the County Council. Councilman Kevin Kamenetz said the council likely would have cut the district's car allowance had school officials not dealt with the issue.

"We'd rather do things in an amicable fashion," said Kamenetz, last year's council chairman and a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat.

Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county Republican, said he hopes to see proceeds from the sale of the cars directed to classrooms.

"We're not trying to take money away from them," he said. "We're trying to get them to use money better."

Those turning in their cars - mostly Chevrolet Malibus - include several executive directors and the system's chief communications officer, Douglas J. Neilson. Neilson said the new policy "makes a lot of sense."

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