Hayden budget holds the line, and council agrees not to cut it BALTIMORE COUNTY


After two financially draining years, the Baltimore County Council agreed informally yesterday not to cut Executive Roger B. Hayden's $1.2 billion budget for fiscal 1994.

Several council members at a work session yesterday characterized the executive's spending plan as a "status quo" budget that merely holds the line in basic services without raising taxes.

The council's formal vote is scheduled for May 26, and the budget will take effect July 1.

The plan would keep the property tax rate at its current level of $2.865 per $100 of assessed valuation, although the average homeowner would pay $32 more next year because of slowly rising assessments. The county's piggyback income tax rate would remain at 55 percent of state taxes.

The budget represents an overall increase of 3 percent over this year's spending, but an increase of only 1.2 percent in funds generated by county taxpayers.

The rest comes from state and federal governments.

Council Chairman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III said the budget does concentrate the county's meager new spending on bolstering flagging police and fire forces, repairing a crumbling infrastructure, and support for education.

In addition, the 3rd District Democrat said, the budget uses $8.8 million in capital funds to fix dozens of leaking county school roofs that have been a source of complaints for years.

Mr. Ruppersberger and several colleagues said they place a high priority on resolving a breakdown in communications between the Hayden administration and the school system, which has surfaced in two incidents that council members found disturbing.

One was the executive's decision, without consulting the council, to remove $500,000 from the capital budget for equipment to reopen Sudbrook Middle School near Pikesville with three special magnet programs in September 1994.

The other is a disagreement over the proper formula for determining school capacity by average class size. The school board measures capacity figuring 24 students per classroom, while the Hayden administration says it should be 26, which is closer to the actual situation. The difference means the school board says some schools are overcrowded, while the administration says they're within their capacity.

Mr. Ruppersberger said both incidents show a lack of communication that the administration should address. "We ,X can't have that," he said of the bickering.

Hinting at friction between Mr. Hayden and school Superintendent Stuart Berger, the chairman added that "maybe there wasn't the opportunity to communicate [on Sudbrook] with Berger as there was with Dubel."

He was referring to Robert Y. Dubel, who was superintendent while Mr. Hayden was on the school board.

Mr. Hayden announced less than a hour after the meeting that he plans to meet with Dr. Berger next week to discuss Sudbrook.

Essex Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, D-5th, said, "We can't really be satisfied with this budget because it's status quo. It's short on police and short on schools."

Councilman Douglas B. Riley, R-4th, called it is a "sound, solid budget" but said that given his druthers and more money, he would put more teachers in county schools and spend more to support regional cultural institutions.

The budget calls for hiring 128 new police recruits and 20 new firefighters, all to replace retirees. It would pay for badly needed fire equipment and calls for all leaking flat school roofs by 1996.

The budget would also add 51 new teachers -- less than half of what the school board asked for to maintain current class sizes.

But it would boost school supply spending by 40 percent and provide for 4,600 new school computers.

County workers would get no general pay increase for the third year in a row and would have to pay more for some health care plans, though some workers would get longevity and step pay raises.

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