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Glendening allots last of school funds


Gov. Parris N. Glendening threw his support behind a 460-seat addition planned for North County High School in Ferndale yesterday, recommending that the project receive $4.2 million in state money.

The announcement occurred as the governor handed out the last $99 million of next year's $295 million school construction budget. Anne Arundel County received a total of $5.3 million yesterday, some of which will go toward renovating Southern Middle School in Lothian.

"I know [County Executive Janet S.] Owens was extremely pleased with how fair the governor's office was to Anne Arundel County," said county spokesman Matthew Diehl.

Anne Arundel also asked for $1.1 million to finish paying for the renovation of Glendale Elementary School, which should be completed late this year. That request was denied.

The recommendations will go to the Board of Public Works tomorrow, but approval is considered a formality.

Yesterday's allotment brings the county's total for the year to $20.7 million.

The allocations bring Glendening's total spending on school construction since he took office to nearly $1.5 billion, putting him within easy striking distance of the $1.6 billion goal he set early in his administration.

"We're going to absolutely shatter that goal that we had set," Glendening said.

The budget continued the governor's emphasis on pouring money into established communities in the form of renovation or expansion of existing schools. Twenty-one percent of the money statewide went to construction projects.

Tommy Thompson, the incoming president of the North County High parent boosters club, said he is pleased that money will be provided for the addition, but regrets that nothing was allotted for a $12 million gymnasium parents would like to have built on campus.

"When money's tight, I appreciate everything we can get," Thompson said yesterday. "I'd like to complete the ... project with the physical education facility, but I'm not disappointed or disgusted with anyone."

The addition will ease crowding at the 2,200-student school. Formerly a middle school, North County High wasn't designed to house that large a population. The $17.7 million undertaking, paid for in conjunction with the county, is scheduled to be completed in 2003.

Parents are holding out hope for an expanded gym, given that the current one holds less than one-third of the school's student body. The school system has supported it, but county and state officials have not.

"Would I like to have the $12 million? Yes," Thompson said. "Will I get it? I don't know. I don't think it's coming through, but anything can happen."

The big winners yesterday were Baltimore City and rapidly growing Howard and Frederick counties.

Baltimore led the state with $46.6 million in construction aid, $25.7 million of it announced yesterday. Howard was second in the Baltimore metropolitan area, with a record $25 million, $8.3 million of it new.

The biggest winner for its size was Frederick County, which received $25.7 million, including $2.8 million in newly announced projects.

Baltimore County received a relatively modest $18.7 million, but that was largely because its request was modest. State school construction chief Yale Stenzler said the county asked for less money this year because it has a backlog of projects in the pipeline.

The majority of the state's school construction money is allocated by the Interagency Committee on School Construction. The portion announced yesterday was determined by the governor in consultation with the agency.

This is the part of the money that was the subject of January's annual "beg-a-thon," in which school administrators, local officials and lawmakers from around the state appear before the Board of Public Works to plead for their pet projects.

State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, whose relationship with the governor has not always been cordial, said she approved of the decisions.

"It was really guided by the quality of the submissions," she said.

Baltimore's total was roughly equivalent to that of Prince George's and Montgomery counties, which received $45.8 million and $45 million respectively.

Showing that even with $295 million you can't please everyone, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan issued a statement calling the county's allocation disappointing. He noted that his budget had assumed that the county would receive $50 million, as it has for the past three years.

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