Schools' capital budget optimistic County planners say 2 major projects likely to be delayed


There may not be an addition to Broadneck Senior High School or a new Meade Area Middle School next year after all, say county officials examining the Anne Arundel Board of Education's proposed $88.4 million construction budget.

Both projects are desperately needed, school planners say, to keep up with the influx of new students in those areas.

But with $5.4 million already committed to converting the former Andover High School building in Linthicum to a middle school -- money earmarked for the project this year, but used instead to build a new Solley Elementary -- the tab for repairs to existing buildings alone hits $24.2 million. That doesn't leave much room for big-ticket items like the Meade and Broadneck projects.

"We will not be able to afford the entire program," said Greg Nourse, a county budget analyst. "They'll probably only get two projects -- the new Park Elementary and the renovation of South Shore Elementary."

"If you add one of those [big-ticket] projects to the list, the budget immediately goes up to about $59 million -- that's quite a jump," said Mr. Nourse.

The repairs and renovations, many of which are required health and safety modifications, include asbestos abatement, replacement of underground storage tanks, 20 relocatable classrooms, new roofs and improvements to make buildings accessible to the handicapped.

The school board voted 6-2 Wednesday to approve a list of 35 projects totaling $88.4 million in combined state and county money. The county's share of the school construction budget as proposed would be $77 million; the state's share would be $7.8 million.

The recommended budget passed by the board Wednesday places $8.8 million in county money for renovations to Park Elementary atop the list, followed by $5.5 million to renovate South Shore Elementary, $20 million to renovate and add to Broadneck Senior and $19.2 million for a new Meade Area Middle School.

The proposed capital budget will be submitted to the County Council for its approval next year.

For the current year, the county school board sought $100 million for construction projects -- an amount just $6 million less than the construction budget for the entire county. The school board walked away with $46.7 million -- $6.6 million from the state and $40.1 million from the county.

Wednesday, school board President Thomas Twombly chided the county for allowing the rate of new home construction to overwhelm its schools. He called for a moratorium on residential construction in the Pasadena area until more schools can be built.

"Between them, the tax cap and the county's thirst for revenue from new developments are going to strangle the school system," said Thomas Twombly, president of the school board.

Michael K. Raible, director of planning and construction for county schools, agreed, noting that the county is granting developers of small projects exemptions from Anne Arundel's adequate facilities ordinance. The ordinance is designed to ensure sufficient schools, roads and other public facilities are in place before new communities are developed.

"The reason the adequate public facility ordinance is in place is to stop development and now we're saying 'Oh, never mind.' " said Mr. Raible. "We're facing the disintegration of existing facilities and overcrowding. The situation is double trouble."

But Jim Cannelli, assistant director of the county's Department of Planning and Code Enforcement, said he thinks the school board may be overreacting a bit.

"I guess what they're troubled about is that in April 1992 we decided to extend this policy of waivers to small subdivisions," said Mr. Cannelli.

With a waiver, a small development can be built, provided the developer agrees to pay a portion of the cost of the remedy -- in the case of schools, that means contributing a proportionate amount toward a new school or additions and renovations to a school.

To date, the county has approved waivers for 73 small developments, although not all have been given the final go-ahead for construction, Mr. Cannelli said. Because the existing school facilities would be inadequate, the county has collected $415,000 toward remedies and holds letters of credit for an additional $525,000.

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