Raises and school needs dominate budget hearing


Giving raises to all county employees, repairing school roofs and buying new school supplies were the top suggestions citizens made to the County Council Thursday during the first of two public hearings on the proposed operating budget for next year.

About 100 people attended the hearing Thursday at North Harford High School on County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann's $188.6 million operating budget proposal for the 1993 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The other hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, in the C. Milton Wright High School auditorium. The school is on Route 543 near Bel Air.

"We want our children to learn values. We want them to learn integrity," said William J. Hughes, one of 16 speakers at the hearing. "The county has given their word [in a contract with teachers]. The teachers and county employees have kept their word, they've given us their best. It's time we kept our word. We pay attention and we vote. Your jobs depend on how well you keep your word."

Peggy Bowser, a member of the North Bend Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association, testified Thursday that she wants the council to give all county employees a 3 percent cost-of-living raise.

Rehrmann has denied raises to county employees and teachers for the second year in a row because of the effects of the recession on county revenue.

Larry Klimovitz, county director of administration, said Friday the executive is waiting to see "concrete evidence the economic recovery is here."

"We've been able to maintain our No. 1 priority during the recession -- to save jobs," said Klimovitz. "Our No. 1 priority when the recovery gets here will be to take care of employees and reward them for sticking it out."

George Lisby, president of the county's Board of Education, said at the hearing that the county should spend more money on education generally -- and not just for raises.

"I want to ask you to take two important steps even beyond giving increases for pay raises for our teachers," said Lisby. "First, let's get the roofing repairs done in one swoop. We have 22 schools that need new roofs. The total cost is $2,629,000 -- less than the county's share for the construction of one new school. It's time for action. Do it now."

Rehrmann has budgeted $10.1 million to pay for various school construction projects in fiscal 1993, which begins July 1. About $324,000 is proposed for roof repairs at two schools, Hall's Cross Roads and Deerfield elementary, in fiscal 1993. Roof repairs at 20 other schools have been delayed until at least 1994.

Lisby also asked the County Council, which has been reviewing the budget for more than a month, to add $1 million to the executive's proposed education budget every year for the next four years to pay for needed books and equipment.

"We've talked long enough. Let our actions speak louder than our words," he said.

Jean Thomas, a teacher at Magnolia Middle School and president-elect of the Harford County Education Association, said the county's lack of action on school repairs, books and equipment can mean only one thing: "We're cheap."

Rehrmann has proposed that the county contribute $76.3 million to the Board of Education's budget. The school board had

originally requested $81.2 million from the county. The rest of the school board's budget comes from state and federal aid. The board's total budget, including the proposed $76.3 million in county money, is $146.4 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

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