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School board to OK $46.5 million budget Funds are included for new Meade Middle, Broadneck High upgrade


The county school board is expected to adopt a $46.5 million capital budget today that includes money for a new Meade Area Middle School and the renovation of Broadneck High School.

In addition, County Executive John Gary is to present to board members his plan for the county to take over the school construction program and the school's maintenance garage. Board members, confronted with a string of construction debacles, agreed last week to meet with the executive.

Lisa Ritter, a spokesman for Mr. Gary, said the takeover is "a natural consolidation that he feels is easy for the county and comfortable for the school board."

"It has to work for both the board and the county or it's not worth it," she added.

The school system's construction division has been criticized because several schools were designed to be larger than their approved sizes, resulting in excess seating capacity. In one case, a school was designed to have less seating capacity than it needs.

In addition, several projects have cost as much as $1 million more than estimated.

The construction budget that Superintendent Carol S. Parham is asking the board to approve is $3.4 million more than the current budget. In addition to money for the Meade and Broadneck projects, it includes a little more than $3.5 million each to replace Ridgeway and Jacobsville elementary schools.

More than $16.8 million of the construction and maintenance funds would come from county bonds. An additional $28.2 million would come from grants and impact fees paid by developers, and $1.3 million from operating cash used to pay for capital projects.

The budget also includes $1.4 million in seed money for a $26 million renovation of Brooklyn Park Middle School. But Dr. Thomas T. Florestano, a board member, wondered whether spending the money would be necessary.

"The question is, can you afford to renovate Brooklyn Park Middle for $26 million?" he said, adding that the cost estimate is ++ 4 years old.

"Things have changed drastically since 1990. Enrollment has dropped, and the money's gone," he said.

Mr. Florestano said he welcomed Mr. Gary's ideas, but questioned whether consolidation was possible.

"The only concern I have is, is he better equipped to take over construction?" Mr. Florestano said. "Does he have the staff to do it?"

The board also is to review policies on board members making personal donations to local schools. The discussions come after an ethics panel decided former board President Michael A. Pace did no wrong in giving more than $10,000 to Crofton Woods Elementary school to help a French immersion program.

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