Exec seeks input on '14 Harford budget

As Harford County Executive David R. Craig is putting together his budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, special interests from across the county are trying to muster supporters to attend a public budget meeting Monday night.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28, in the auditorium at Aberdeen High School.

"As my staff and I begin preparations for the FY 2014 budget for Harford County, I want to hear from the citizens regarding their concerns and recommendations," Craig said in a statement released Thursday.

If leaders of various constituencies have their way, Craig, who is expected to be joined by members of his cabinet and budget officials, will hear plenty.

Education, as typically happens, will be one of the top issues. People in Abingdon, Bel Air, Fallston, Havre de Grace and Joppatowne have all voiced their desires to see what they say are outdated school buildings in their communities replaced. In addition, Darlington area residents have been encouraged to attend Monday's hearing to advocate for Darlington Elementary School because some believe its future could be in jeopardy because of its small number of students.

"It is the smallest percentage to capacity in Harford County," Russell Kovach said at a Darlington-Dublin Community Council meeting last week.

According to the Harford County Public Schools Web site, Darlington Elementary has a capacity of 192 students and an enrollment of 123. That's about 64 percent.

Kovach, a C. Milton Wright High School science teacher, is a member of the Darlington-Dublin council who was advocating for the Darlington community, not the school system. He pointed out that the school, which dates in some form to 1841, is an asset that needs protecting.

His comments came at the end of the meeting after the council also heard an update from Capt. Keith Warner, of the Harford County Sheriff's Office, on crime in the area. Kovach asked Darlington area residents to attend Monday's hearing to advocate for three things - more funding for the sheriff's office, more funding for the Darlington library branch and to keep Darlington Elementary School open.

Other Harford County advocates have been more direct: They want money for replacement schools in their communities.

"It's very important that we get dollars in the county budget this year," Beth Poggioli, vice president of the Youth's Benefit Elementary School PTA, said at Tuesday evening's Fallston Community Council meeting. The Fallston community has been working to get the 1950s vintage school replaced.

"No other county capital project is needed more," Poggioli said, "or is more ready to go."

Homestead-Wakefield Elementary School advocates say they plan to be at Monday's hearing.

"Yes, I will definitely be there," Mary P. Harris, a Homestead-Wakefield Elementary advocate, wrote in an email Thursday afternoon. "And, we will be having other speakers representing HWES as well."

Folks from Havre de Grace and Joppatowne want new high schools and the William Paca/Old Post Road community wants a replacement elementary school.

On top of that, Ryan Burbey, the new head of the Harford County Education Association, the teachers union, has been making the rounds of community meetings asking for support to get more funding for the school system, particularly for teachers.

The FY 2014 fiscal budget will be prepared between January and late March and the proposed budget will be presented to the Harford County Council by April 1, according to the county.

Those want to speak at Monday night's hearing should arrive by 5:30 p.m. to sign in. Individuals addressing Craig and his staff will have three minutes to speak. Those speaking for a group or organization will have five minutes.

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