Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz told a group of Perry Hall residents Tuesday that public safety, education and infrastructure remain the county's top priorities in tough economic times.
But over coffee and doughnuts at the Double T Diner on Joppa Road, residents said school overcrowding and recreational facilities are among their local concerns.
Resident Renee Papavasiliou said overcrowded classrooms at Perry Hall High School are a big concern for parents. "If the class sizes were smaller," she said, "teachers would get to know the kids."
According to a report issued in December by the county's Department of Planning, Perry Hall High is 100 students over its state-rated capacity of 2,110.
Kamenetz acknowledged school crowding and said, "We recognize we are going to have to figure out how to get more seats. The question is, how do we pay for it?"
At the Coffee with Kevin event — Kamenetz's third such informal forum with residents since August — the executive said the county has not raised property taxes for 24 years or income taxes for 20 years, and he's proud of the county's top bond ratings, its avoidance of furloughs or layoffs and its overall fiscal management.
Resident Barbara Waskiewicz asked why Perry Hall hasn't gotten county funding for a proposed dog park, even though other communities in the county have.
Kamenetz said in lean budget times, the county must "make hard decisions."
"I'm just being honest with you," he said. "It's not going to happen today."
Waskiewicz said after the event that residents have been working to raise private funds for the park, but, "there's not as much wealth here as he thinks."
Ken Laurentius, a plant manager at Cargill Salt on Philadelphia Road, told Kamenetz that land once designated for industry has been lost to new housing subdivisions.
"We can't create jobs if there's housing on the land," he said. "There's going to be no land left pretty soon to create any manufacturing jobs."
County Councilman David Marks, who attended the event, said he's not surprised grass-roots issues, overdevelopment and taxes are issues for Perry Hall residents.
"People in Perry Hall do not want their taxes raised like the state and federal governments have done," he said. "And there are projects like the dog park and school air conditioning that are very important. The trick is, how do we get them done during such a fiscally challenging time?"
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