County reaps record funding; Owens pleased with $225 million OK'd by state legislators


Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens basked in the glow of state largess yesterday as the General Assembly departed Annapolis, having sent a record amount of aid the county's way.

The haul, fueled by a billion-dollar state surplus, ranges from $500,000 for a new-teacher mentoring program to $1.25 million for renovations to Brooklyn Park Community Center.

"In terms of my own personal priorities, I got everything I asked the delegation and [Gov. Parris N. Glendening] for," said Owens, a Democrat. "I enjoyed being teased by a couple of county executives about how much Anne Arundel got."

Anne Arundel will receive more than $225 million in direct state aid, an increase of more than 8 percent from last year. The total does not include an undetermined amount for drug treatment, which Owens estimates will be almost $1 million.

Much of the money comes with strings attached, with the county having to match the aid. The most notable case may be 5 percent raises for teachers -- with the state providing 1 percent for any county putting up the rest, as Owens says Anne Arundel will do.

Since the county school board has approved a 3 percent raise, the county will have to come up with an additional $2.6 million in the next fiscal year to qualify for the state aid, according to school officials. The state's contribution will end after two years.

"While I voted for the salary increase, I think it's going to have a significant impact on county finances," said Del. John R. Leopold, a Republican from Pasadena. "You can't just legislate for the next fiscal year; you have to think of the long-term consequences."

The General Assembly also passed a variety of noneconomic measures that will affect the county. One bill will allow restaurants to seek more than one liquor license in certain areas.

Funding highlights

But the primary focus has been on dollar signs. Among the highlights: $600,000 to expand the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary on the Patuxent River.

$150,000 for a respite care center at Heritage Harbour senior center in Annapolis, which will be matched by the county.

$500,000 for Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis.

$200,000 for a new amphitheater for programs at Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis, including performances by the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, with the amount matched by the county.

$200,000 for Owensville Primary Care Center, a South County clinic serving low-income people.

$150,000 for an expanded town hall in Highland Beach, an old African-American community south of Annapolis, matched by county money.

$1.04 million to renovate the county detention center in Parole.

$300,000 for a Kunta Kinte memorial in Annapolis, for which the county allocated matching money earlier.

$525,000 in state money to start a technology center at Anne Arundel County Community College.

Helping new teachers

Owens said the $500,000 in mentoring funds will help new teachers learn from more experienced colleagues. One goal is to help county schools retain new teachers.

"We know the young teachers need help," Owens said.

Not everything is set.

The county has been promised $13.5 million for school construction and renovation projects, but is waiting to see if the state Board of Public Works will increase the figure by about $9.5 million. That will be decided next month.

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