Baltimore County Digest

BALTIMORE COUNTY DIGEST

February 21, 2007

School board fails to approve budget

The Baltimore County school board failed last night to approve either of two proposed operating budgets for the upcoming school year, despite three attempts, including one that was voided when the school board's attorney nullified the student representative's vote.

The school board's attorney explained that the student representative's vote was nullified because he is not allowed to vote on budget matters.

Because the school system must submit a budget request to the county by March 1, the board is expected to take up the budget at next Tuesday's meeting.

During the meeting, the board considered two versions of the budget:

A $1.19 billion plan that included about $20 million to raise the minimum hourly wage to $10 for all employees; $2.7 million to place an assistant in every kindergarten classroom; $500,000 for classroom sound enhancement systems; $57,000 to expand the AVID program at Woodlawn High School; and about $465,000 in other adjustments.

An almost $1.17 billion package that included all of those changes except the $20 million for the hourly wage increase.

The $1.19 billion plan is about $25 million more than Superintendent Joe A. Hairston's original $1.16 billion proposed spending plan, which was presented to the board early last month.

The board's inability to reach a majority last night stemmed from disagreement over the proposed hourly wage increase. Some members said it would be fiscally irresponsible to seek funding for such a large increase, while other members said it was critical to support higher pay for the school system's lowest-paid workers. Hairston's original proposed budget includes money equal to about a 10 percent increase, which would raise the minimum wage for hourly workers from $8.40 to $9.20.

Hairston's proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 reflects a 10.4 percent increase -- about $110 million -- over the current spending plan.

The proposed budget includes funding for nearly $2 million for the final phase of the expansion of all-day kindergarten to nine schools. State education officials have required all-day kindergarten for all pupils by next school year.

County Executive James T. Smith Jr. will include funding for the school system in his budget recommendation, which is expected to be presented to the County Council in April. Council members are scheduled to set funding levels in May.

Gina Davis

Dundalk

Man held in sexual abuse of boy, 13

A Dundalk man has been charged with sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy, county police said.

Robert Paul Layton, 48, of the first block of Broadship Road, also faces charges of soliciting a 14-year-old boy for sex, county police said.

The alleged sex abuse and solicitation occurred last month at Layton's home, county police said.

Layton initiated conversations with teenagers while walking his dogs in his neighborhood, said Cpl. Michael Hill, a county police spokesman. Layton attempted to lure teenagers to his home with the promise of drugs, food and the opportunity to play pool, according to police and court papers. Layton was arrested Feb. 6, after a 14-year-old boy notified a school resource officer of the alleged solicitation, county police said. During a search of Layton's home, detectives found several photographs of unidentified nude boys, county police said.

Layton has been charged with sex abuse of a minor, two counts of second-degree sex offense, two counts of third-degree sex offense, and two counts of second-degree assault. Layton had been previously convicted of a third-degree sex offense in Prince George's County, court papers show.

Police said he registered as a sex offender when he moved to Baltimore County in 2001, living at addresses in the Hillendale and Dundalk areas.

Layton was being held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center detention center, county police said.

Nick Shields

`Police Report'

Cable show highlights auto theft

The latest edition of Police Report, the Baltimore County Police Department's cable television program, includes a segment on preventing auto thefts during the winter.

The show's second segment will focus on the work of the department's forensic technicians, who collect, document and protect evidence and analyze suspicious substances.

The final segment will describe neighborhood crime trends and ask viewers for help in identifying wanted suspects.

This edition runs through March 2. It airs at 8:30 p.m. Monday, 7 p.m. Tuesday, 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and 10:30 a.m. Friday on Comcast Channel 25 in the county.

Events or news items for the Baltimore County Digest may be submitted to baltco.news@baltsun.com. Information should be sent at least 10 days in advance of the event.

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