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Citizens, organizations urge Harford County Council to adopt Glassman’s budget to fund schools, emergency services

Harford County citizens and members of professional associations phoned the county council Thursday night to encourage them to approve County Executive Barry Glassman’s proposed $948 million budget.

The budget fully funds the school board’s $278 million operating budget, an increase of more than $20 million from a year ago. County funding for the schools’ capital budget is significantly lower, however.

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Much of the public comment centered on school funding, with parents and teachers chiming in. Chrystie Crawford-Smick, president of the Harford County Education Association, asked the council to adopt the budget, which could help schools purchase better technology for distance learning, restore classroom positions and raise teacher pay.

“We thank you for making [teachers’] needs a priority,” she said.

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Crawford-Smick acknowledged that the school system’s capital budget was not fully funded, but said it seemed Glassman had carefully evaluated areas to cut costs. There is still work to be done, she said, in reducing class sizes, but this makes for a good start. Multiple teachers echoed her points.

Aaron Penman, president of the Harford County Deputy Sheriff’s Union, also urged the county to adopt the budget, which includes pay raises for sheriff’s deputies to make their salaries more competitive and attract higher-level applicants. He thanked Glassman and Sheriff Jeffrey R. Gahler for pushing through with the increases.

Vice president of the Aberdeen Volunteer Fire Department John Bender thanked the council and county executive for supporting fire and EMS associations during novel coronavirus pandemic.

Glassman’s proposed budget calls for nearly $7.2 million for volunteer fire companies, a 3% increase over the previous year, as well as $5.3 million for the Harford County Volunteer Fire and EMS Foundation, $3.5 million for Harford County EMS Service, a cost of living increase to the length of service award program, or LOSAP, for volunteers, and $13.1 million in capital funds for public safety and volunteer fire and EMS projects.

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Bender asked the council to fund the remaining $500,000 to complete renovations to the department’s fire station, which is budgeted.

"This funding is very much needed” after the department incurred "unexpected, significant expenses,” Bender said.

A citizen and regular attendee of council meetings, John P. Mallamo advocated for a more conservative budget. His was the most critical comment for the budget.

“I would appreciate if you would undertake the task of reviewing this budget to align it with the fiscal and financial realities of the county and its taxpayers,” he said.

County Council President Patrick Vincenti said that he is looking at the council’s May 26 meeting for a final vote on the budget. Some amendments to the budget are scheduled to be introduced at the council’s meeting this coming Monday. Citizens can comment on those amendments, Vincenti said, as long as they are not action items on the agenda.

No further public hearings are scheduled, and Vincenti was pleased that public participation was better than last week’s public hearing, which net only two comments.

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