Editorial: Pondering $4 million ways to celebrate mild winter

March 13, 2012

Suppose you had budgeted $5.9 million on something that ended up costing only $1.7 million.

What would you do with that extra $4 million-plus?

That's the enviable question Baltimore County gets to ponder as an almost-snow-free winter has nearly passed, leaving behind millions in unspent snow removal monies.

The $1.7 million spent thus far this year is one-seventh of the $11.5 million it spent last year, which in turn was about half of the $20.8 million it spent during the winter of 2009-10, which included the "Snowmageddon" twin blizzards in February.

The savings, of course, will be subsumed into the county's general fund.

With the prospect that this is the year some portion of teacher pension costs will likely be shifted from state expenses to Maryland's counties, Baltimore County will need every dollar it can get.

But the truth in, there's no shortage of needs where that money could be directed. Infrastructure repairs, social services, law enforcement, fire and rescue, parks and recreation, public libraries — all these lay claim to tens of millions of county budget dollars.

Then there are schools. New schools are needed to relieve overcrowding in many parts of the county. Perhaps the most glaring in the greater Towson area, where West Towson Elementary, opened only two years ago, is already so crowded there are calls for another school in the York Road corridor.

Schools, roads, recreational facilities, social service programs — many of these are of an order of magnitude so high that $4 million would scarcely make a dent.

Still, it would be nice to spend the amount on something that would commemorate a winter when Mother Nature gave Baltimore County's budget a break.

Have an idea? Let us know. Drop us a line, or post your thoughts below.

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