Largest school bond issue in Baltimore County history totals $48.2 million


Towson High School is Baltimore County's oldest high school building. In recent years, it has had a a leaky roof, peeling plaster and dimly lighted corridors while modernization projects took place at other schools.

Of the 12 school bond issues which will appear as Question A on the Nov. 8 general election, Towson High has been been waiting the longest for funds, nearly seven years.

If voters approve, there will be $12 million in the 1995 capital budget to modernize Towson High. It is the largest single project of some $48.2 million in school bond issues on the ballot, the largest school bond issue in the county's history.

Altogether, voters will be asked to approve $81.7 million in capital bond issues for the next two-year period for school construction and improvements, roads, bridges, parks and refuse dumps.

County voters routinely approve bond issue questions, said Doris Suter, election board administrator. The last time voters rejected a bond issue was Question I in 1990, which sought $2.6 million for affordable housing and community development.

"The way the ballot question was written and because the county didn't adequately communicate to the voters what affordable housing meant, voters tied it to federal subsidized housing," said Frank W. Welsh, director of the county community development department.

While all other bond issues passed handily in 1990, Question I lost 78,477 to 49,484. Question F on this year's ballot explains that the affordable housing is for the elderly and young families to erase any misunderstandings, Mr. Welsh said.

While the amount of capital funds requested for schools is the highest in county history, the total overall is modest compared to recent bond referendums. In 1990, for example, $200 million in bond issues were placed before the voters, the highest in county history.

The modest amount this year reflects County Executive Roger B. Hayden's intent to keep a limit on borrowing and interest payments.

James E. Kraft, manager of capital planning for the school system, said he is delighted with the amount of school bond issues on the ballot.

"If the voters agree, this will allow us to add additional seating and upgrade our aging infrastructure," Mr. Kraft said.

Towson High, built in 1949, first appeared in the county's capital improvement plans in 1988, said Mr. Kraft. The county decided it couldn't afford two high school modernization projects at the same time, so Towson kept being pushed back for other schools until last year when it was dropped entirely.

Proposed bond funds also are included for additions to Owings Mills and Red House Run elementary schools and for badly overcrowded Perry Hall High School. Also on the requests are funds for the re-opening of Catonsville Middle School, roof repairs and major maintenance.

Other bond issues on the ballot include:

* Question B: $9.5 million for refuse disposal facilities, with the largest project being $8 million for construction of new disposal areas at the Eastern Sanitary Landfill.

* Question C: $6.6 million for community colleges, including $1.7 million for design and construction of the South East Institute for Economic and Community Development on the Dundalk Community College campus.

* Question D: $10.7 million for various public works projects, 90 percent of which would be for road resurfacing.

* Question E: $1.5 million for parks, recreation and greenways, including $75,000 in local acquisition costs to preserve Cromwell Valley, which is now a county park.

L * Question F: $1 million for elderly and affordable housing.

* Question G: $500,000 to buy farmland for agricultural preservation.

* Question H: $3.5 million for community improvements, mainly to revitalize neighborhood business districts and community town centers.

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