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Teacher Pay, Churchville Project Highlight First Budget Hearing

County Council President Billy Boniface said we are all "one county."

UPDATE (8:04 p.m.)—Wednesday's Harford County Council budget public hearing at North Harford High School yielded few speakers, though most of them were in agreement.

Calls for tax cuts, library funding and support of a parks and recreation and library project in Churchville were residents' top priorities. Council President Billy Boniface said people are realizing how scarce funding is for fiscal year 2012.

"I haven't gotten a lot of feedback," he said after the hearing, noting that threats of teacher protests did not come to fruition. "They recognized that this budget's pretty tight."

Harford County Education Association President Randy Cerveny suggested several changes to the budget that would return millions to the Board of Education and potentially fund school system salary increases. But Boniface said Cerveny's suggestions to use the general fund and PayGo money, among other ideas, are not feasible.

"He's doing his job," Boniface said. "[But] some of his numbers just don't add up. ... A lot of the numbers he discussed are restricted funds."

Cerveny told the council that Harford County teachers need only to teach in Cecil and Baltimore counties to receive pay raises of 3 percent to 7 percent.

Multiple residents spoke in favor of following the original timeline for a project in Churchville that would provide an updated gymnasium, science center and library.

"There's a lot of misinformation out there," Bonfiace said. "The funds just aren't available to get it started."

The council president said the gym project will begin in fiscal year 2013 with the library scheduled for fiscal year 2017. They were originally scheduled to be built in the upcoming fiscal year.

Boniface added that work on the Aberdeen, Darlington and Havre de Grace libraries must be completed before one is built in Churchville.

Residents also spoke in favor of maintaining funding for existing libraries.

Boniface expects amendments to be introduced to the capital budget at Tuesday's legislative session for the capital budget. He said there could also be adjustments to the operating budget based on funds the county receives from the state.

"Let's face it," Boniface said. "We're all one county, right?"

Scroll down for a full timeline of the public hearing.

6:59 p.m. The public hearing has ended. The next one is Thursday at Edgewood High School at 6:30 p.m.

6:56 p.m. Verna White, who lives near the Baltimore County line, is speaking against increased costs.

"If the money's not there, you can't create it unless you put more fees and taxes on the taxpayer," she said. "We retirees don't get those raises. It's not that I want to deny you, but I really want to know where the money went."

She added that potential raises are deserved, but the council should find out where the money from past revenue went and "where the extra money is hidden."

She called the retirees the heart of Harford County.

6:53 p.m. Hugo Bierman from Bel Air spoke against taxes and pay increases.

"I live on a fixed income, I have had no COLA increase in six years, and I don't expect to get one in the next five," he said.

Hugo suggested lower taxes on businesses to encourage them to move into Harford County.

"We need lower taxes and less spending with a balanced budget," he said. "We demand efficient operations. ... Available resources are shrinking...

"Where will the money come from? You guessed it, us."

6:49 p.m. Pat McGrady opened her comments by praising the council for being conservative with their funds.

"I do think [teachers] need more money, I just don't want to pay for it," she said. "Please consider the negative impact of adding debt payments to the budget."

6:48 p.m. President of the Harford County Education Association Randy Cerveny spoke on behalf of Harford County teachers. He opened by reminding the council that it is Teacher Appreciation Week.

"Even in this technological age with computers and such, the teacher is the difference," he said. "Harford County owes much of its success to its public school system."

Cerveny suggested a few options the council could explore to return funding to the .

“There are ways of funding the school system without raising taxes,” he said.

Cerveny said teachers could receive a 3 percent to 7 percent raise just by transferring to Cecil or Baltimore County.

6:40 p.m. Stephanie Ducote, a 21-year resident of Harford County who lives in Pylesville, spoke in favor of the Churchville recreation site brought up by Bill earlier.

"I'm all for the current location as it stands," she said. "The parks and recreation land usage plan with their goal to use land most effectively ... is just a really good plan."

6:38 p.m. Stephanie Stone spoke in favor of the Whiteford branch of Harford County Public Libraries.

"The Whiteford Library is a pillar of our community," she said. "We have free books ... we have the best deal since sliced bread, which is free DVDs for two nights."

She added that libraries are as valuable as roads and police, and they provide a welcoming environment.

"Nobody wants to sell you anything," she said. "Their sole reason for being there is to help you."

6:36 p.m. Bill Nicodemus spoke second in favor of a gym/library/science center project at a Churchville parks and recreation site.

“There’s a lot of support in the county for the continuation in this project in its original form with the library science center and gymnasium structure," he said.

CORRECTION: The site is on Churchville parks and recreation grounds, not at the elementary school.

6:34 p.m. The first speaker, Steve Cornelius, spoke in support of funding the libraries.

“There’s a lot of support in the county for the continuation in this project in its original form with the library science center and gymnasium structure,” he said.

6:30 p.m. The first of two Harford County Council budget public hearings takes place at North Harford High School on Wednesday night. Patch will provide live updates.

Susan Misey May 05, 2011 at 11:32 AM
Pat McGrady is a male.

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