The four members of the Harford County Council who are running for re-election this year face varying degrees of opposition to hold onto their seats that range from none, to very little, to some.
With early voting getting under way Thursday for the June 24 primary election, one of the four races is decided and a second will be after the primary votes are counted. Early voting runs daily through Thursday, June 19.
In District B, covering greater Fallston, western Abingdon and part of Joppa, Councilman Joe Woods, a Republican, doesn't have a primary opponent, nor has any Democrat filed for the seat.
In District D, covering the northern third of the county, Councilman Chad Shrodes will know his fate after his Republican primary contest with Jonathan Grimmel, as the Democrats have failed to field a candidate in this race for the second straight election and aren't expected to put one up before the general election.
The prospects are a little more iffy for Councilman Dion Guthrie in District A, covering Joppatowne and Edgewood, and Councilman Jim McMahan in District C, covering greater Bel Air.
Guthrie, seeking a record-tying fourth term, doesn't have opposition in the Democratic primary but will have to face the winner of a two-way Republican primary in the general election.
McMahan has two challengers in the Republican primary and then in the general will have to face a Democrat who doesn't have a primary foe, if he is to secure a third term.
The following are brief background summaries of the candidates and their positions on school funding. For more detailed information about the candidates and their position on this and other issues, visit data.baltimoresun.com/voter-guide/local/harford.html.
District A – Republican
Yvonne Baldwin: Age 48, lives in Joppatowne; owner western wear store and licensed Realtor, member of Joppa/Joppatowne Community Council; Republican nominee for District A council seat in 2010.
To fund the school system and pay teachers "in a fair and competitive salary range," Baldwin says she is "totally for cutting government waste and making the resources already available."
"We should look to consolidating/merge services in an effort to reduce county expenses and funnel money saved to the schools," says Baldwin, who would not rule out consolidating and closing schools in the face of declining enrollment. "Building [multi-million dollar] facilities seems inappropriate when teachers have not had raises in seven years," she says.
Mike Perrone Jr.: Age 37, lives in Edgewood; CPA and financial analyst; leader of The Sharing Table at Prince of Peace Church that provides meals and groceries to needy Edgewood residents; co-founder Harford Campaign for Liberty, first-time candidate.
Perrone says he would support providing more money for schools "if we can find the money elsewhere" and suggests the first two places in the county budget to be cut are the economic development and planning and zoning agencies.
"The Department of Economic Development wastes a lot of time and money loaning or outright giving away our hard earned tax dollars," Perrone says. "If the level of unnecessary regulations in our 366 page zoning code is reflected in the staffing levels of the [planning and zoning] department, then I am sure we can find cost savings there as well."
District A - Democrat
Dion Guthrie: 75, lives in Joppatowne, retired; legislative liaison Route 40 Business Association, active member Joppatowne Lions Club, Workforce Investment Board Harford and Cecil counties; member Greater Excellence in Education Foundation; elected to county council in 2002, re-elected 2006 and 2010; no primary opposition.
"There can be a number of issues, like combining services between the county and board of education which would free up millions that can be used for wages," says Guthrie. "Paying more attention to 'people' and less to 'brick and mortar' would be one way to start."
Guthrie also notes that "we have schools that are 65-70 percent capacity; redistricting would save millions" and adds that the school system is over staffed in some areas. "When we build a new should, we should make the first floor office [space] that can be rented out and those funds used to operate the school like they do in California."
District B – Republican
Joe Woods: lives in Fallston; member, former chief Fallston Volunteer Fire Company; appointed to county council 2009, elected to full term in 2010; Woods has no primary or general election opposition; he did not submit additional information.
District C – Republican
Eric Daxon: 40, lives in Bel Air; partner in software company, formerly worked for Verizon; was actively involved in legal fight supporting a family trying to build a creamery on the farm in Glen Arm; first-time candidate.
"While parents, teachers and students are dealing with real financial shortfalls in the school budget from pensions to raises, the county is spending your tax money to help a few people," says Daxon, who advocates repealing the stormwater management fee, or rain tax, among other taxes and fees.
"Our council, rather than work to give our teachers raises, gave out $3.4 million to five farms [for agricultural preservation]. The pot went to five people. Practices of giving taxpayer funds to a few must stop," says Daxon, who suggests the county could generate more revenue from its infrastructure, such as by "allowing companies to harvest our landfill for recyclables and landfill gases."
Jim McMahan: 76, lives in Bel Air; former policeman, on-air radio personality, radio station owner; among those who founded the Bel Air Community Band and Bel Air Community Chorus, retired Maryland Army National Guard colonel; former Bel Air Town Commissioner; elected to county council 2006, re-elected 2010.
McMahan says he favors a "hybrid approach" to addressing the school funding issue, beginning with the formation of a study group "to address the apparent disconnect" between the county executive, as the funding authority, and school board, as the end user. Under this current set-up, he says, the council is little more than a "rubber stamp" for the executive's funding decisions.
McMahan, who praises current school leaders, says he wants to be involved in such a fact-finding study. "This group must come to a conclusion as to the effective process whereby every student has an equal opportunity to a quality education and the teachers and support staff are paid for their commitment to our children," he says.
David Mitchell: lives in Bel Air; previously ran for town commissioner; Mitchell did not submit additional information.
District C – Democrat
Gina Kazimir: 49, lives in Bel Air; owns communications firm; active in Bel Air Downtown Alliance, Anna's House, Habitat for Humanity, Open Doors; first-time candidate.
"Current school funding isn't acceptable," says Kazimir, who says the council must do its "due diligence when reviewing the budget as presented by the county executive."
While not in favor of raising taxes to provide more school funding, Kazimir says, "We must decide whether we want to give a higher priority to educating our children than we do now, and if so, reallocate our current tax revenue to do so."
District D – Republican
Johnathan Grimmel: Age 22, lives in Monkton; recent college graduate; family has a large farming business; first-time candidate.
Grimmel says there needs to be more focus on people and less on facilities when considering school funding. "The county is spending more on brick and mortar than on honoring cost of living contracts with its employees," he says. "We need to wait until a needs assessment of the Harford County education system is complete before engaging in further in new construction."
"Teachers need to receive their cost of living increases as promised...," Grimmel says. "We need to address wasteful spending in government. We need to ensure the county is being cost effective and efficient."
Chad Shrodes: Age 40, lives in Norrisville; former county planner; active in Harford County Farm Bureau, member Jarrettsville Lions Club; member Traffic Safety Advisory Board; elected to the county council 2006, re-elected 2010.
Shrodes says fostering more efficient operation of the county government and the school system is the place to start when assessing school funding needs. "Of particular concern to me is the duplication of efforts in the functions of county government and the school system," he says, mentioning facilities and fleet management, human resources, procurement and IT.
"We need a better relationship between the Board of Education, county government and state government; the state needs to look at their wealth formulas and also consider the effects of mandated programs and how they affect local systems," he says.