Harford County Council members approved the first of what are expected to be several amendments to the proposed fiscal year 2013 budget during Tuesday's council meeting, including one to increase the amount of money earmarked for a new animal shelter in Fallston.
Conspicuous by their absence Tuesday were any amendments to remove from the capital budget the $3.5 million the county wants to spend next year to build a trash transfer handling facility in Joppa. The area's two council members, Dion Guthrie and Joe Woods, have vowed to strike those funds from the budget in an effort to kill the project, which residents oppose.
Eighteen budget amendments, proposed by the administration, were considered Tuesday, as Budget and Management Research Chief Kimberly Spence offered brief explanations of each to council members.
The first two amendments were to increase funds for a capital project at the Harford County Humane Society.
These were not county funds, Spence specified, but the amendments gave them the authority to accept contributions. Several other amendments dealt with reallocating funds from the Woodland Run Stream Restoration project to the Joppatowne Area Watershed Restoration one, she added.
According to the 2013 capital budget request submitted by Harford County Executive David Craig, $6 million is earmarked for building a new shelter on the humane society's property in Fallston. The amendment adds $400,000 to the project.
The budget still envisions that the county will sell bonds for the $6 million. It also notes a prior appropriation of $326,000 for the project.
The remaining amendments approved Tuesday add federal funds to capital projects in the highways budget and also reallocate funds from traffic calming and road safety improvements to intersection improvements, Spence said.
The council has until the end of the month to enact the budget, and Council President Billy Boniface noted that the bulk of any amendments, including those sponsored by individual council members, will probably be introduced and acted on at the next legislative session May 15.
The council held its last public hearing on the budget Wednesday at Havre de Grace High School (Please see story, this page).
Bonus plan held
Council members also approved a bill dealing with the county agricultural preservation program appropriations, but Boniface said they would hold onto three other bills until after the Maryland General Assembly's special session next week in anticipation there could be more costs coming down the pike for the county.
These particular bills, if passed, will fund the second $625 bonus payment for county employees, sheriff's personnel and Harford school system employees and teachers.
Council members approved two resolutions for the school system but delayed action on a third - to adopt the capital program for fiscal years 2013 through 2018 - until after they have made final decisions on the 2013 budget.
The resolutions approved permit the school system to refinance some of its debt. James Jewell, assistant superintendent of business services, said the system wants to refinance the administration building debt, as well as that on energy performance equipment, to take advantage of lower interest rates and save money.
The savings expected from the refinancings, which Jewell said would not lengthen the life of the debt, is $1.5 million.
In a Citizens Budget Advisory Board report, member Charles Ramsay Jr. noted several "unresolved" items in the proposed budget, pointing out the school system has two budgets, one with the county executive and the other with the county council because of "unresolved salary negotiations."
Council members approved the appointment of John J. Swab, of Edgewood High School, as a student representative for the Harford County Library Board of Trustees, as well as appointments to the Youth Commission: O'Melia V. James, of the Local Management Board; Jennifer Andrychowski, of Y of Central Maryland; Jeanne Colopietro, of Home School Association; Michael Dinicola, of Harford Community College; Angelique Kopa, of Harford County Public Library; and Linda D. Siegel, of Susquehanna Workforce Network Inc.
In a proclamation approved by the council, May was declared Building Safety Month.