Funeral home bill advances

The Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore funeral home chain likely will be able to expand to Baltimore County under legislation that unanimously won approval from County Council members last night.

The zoning measure allows funeral homes to be built on cemeteries in certain rural areas with special permission. It allows March Funeral Homes to seek permission to build a funeral home on its 150-acre King Memorial Park in Milford Mill.

"It seems rather sensible," said Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county Republican who co-sponsored the legislation with Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat.

Having a funeral home at the same location as a large cemetery reduces traffic, McIntire said. And because the company still must have permission of the zoning commissioner, a public hearing will be held before the new funeral home is approved, Oliver said.

The council also approved the transfer of about $3.9 million to cover budget overruns attributed to rising fuel costs and fewer savings from vacant county jobs. As the fiscal year nears an end, it's fairly routine for the budget office to ask for unreserved general funds to be transferred to specific departments to cover unexpected expenses, according to county officials.

This year, many of the budget overruns were attributed to fewer vacant county jobs, said Fred J. Homan, the county's administrative officer. The budget office counts on lower personnel costs in each department from the gaps between when employees leave and new ones are hired.

Less turnover in the sheriff's office resulted in an additional $200,000 spent by the agency, and the Police Department had $660,000 in additional salary and overtime costs.

"It's a sizable amount of money," said Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat. "I'm particularly interested in the lack of turnover, which will have implications for us in this budget."

The county budget office found that an additional $2 million is needed to cover fuel costs for the vehicle fleet. The office also is revising the projected fuel costs in 2008-2009 budget.

County Executive James T. Smith Jr. is to deliver his budget to the council April 15.

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