Library, sound barriers might be added to budget


With the County Council scheduled to vote on next year's budget in less than two days, a handful of projects are emerging as possible additions to County Executive Janet S. Owens' proposed $1 billion spending plan.

The list includes a new library in Crofton, sound barriers on U.S. 50 near Annapolis and expedited repairs to Marley Middle School, said Council Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr.

During the next two days, he and other council members will look for ways to free money to pay for projects they want added.

"It's trying to get all the pieces to mesh and fit together, knowing this is what we want to do and trying to figure out where to get the money to do it," he said.

One key unknown is whether Owens will agree to a supplemental budget. Owens has said she would prefer not to have one. Without support from her, the council cannot add money to the budget except for schools.

"County Executive Owens is looking forward to meeting with the council chairman and vice chairman and listening to their budget input in hopes of working out a resolution," said Owens spokesman Andrew C. Carpenter.

Klosterman has asked Owens to begin construction of a $7.4 million library in Crofton next year rather than in 2004. Next year's share would be $3.7 million."I personally would like to see her move that up because it's ready to go," said Klosterman, a Millersville Democrat.

Owens noted a recommendation of the Planning Advisory Board as her reason for delaying the Crofton library. But she said then that she hoped new libraries in Crofton and nearby Odenton could be built simultaneously.

One source of money that could defray the cost, Klosterman said, is $1.5 million in the capital budget that is no longer needed for its original purpose: a loan involving David Taylor Research Center, which is being privately redeveloped. In addition, he said, the county might be able to save $500,000 by using the same design for both libraries.

In the operating budget, he said $4 million could be trimmed, partly by eliminating duplications. In some cases, the county budgeted for the same computers twice, through a central allocation and through individual departments.

The total savings could be as much as $6 million, he said.

The council would have little trouble spending that amount. The U.S. 50 sound barriers would cost the county $900,000. Owens has said she wants the state to foot the entire bill, not 80 percent.

Klosterman said it would cost $1 million to speed renovations on 40-year-old Marley Middle School. By folding planning and engineering into next year's budget, construction could start in 2002.

Schools also could see more money to hire school guidance counselors and psychologists; give raises to teachers who instruct homebound and hospitalized children; and raise pay for principals.

Also on the table is a raise for the county's 1,000 blue-collar workers. They have asked for 4.6 percent next year, which would cost the county $1.3 million. The county has offered 2 percent, costing $550,000.

One item not likely to be cut, according to Klosterman, is a new police radio system. County Auditor Teresa Sutherland expressed reservations because the county has budgeted $15 million, despite one estimate that it would cost up to $28 million.

"I think the project probably will go," Klosterman said.

Unlike last year, when the budget was not "struck" until the wee hours of the morning, this year's deliberations should go more smoothly - and more quickly, Klosterman said.

"I think it's going to much less volatile and most of the council members are on board with the priorities," he said.

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