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Parents make a pitch for schools

December 04, 1996

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

When Jim Laird looks around the hallways of South Hagerstown High School, he sees a building in desperate need of renovation.

Then he hears all the talk about the state of Maryland struggling to keep its budget in black ink.

That's why Laird, the parent of a student at South High, has difficulty understanding why the state would want to reduce its revenues by cutting income taxes.

"It just seems foolhardy for this to even be brought up," Laird told members of the county's legislative delegation Wednesday night.

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Laird was part of a group of about 20 people who attended the legislative forum at South High. The 11/2-hour meeting, sponsored by the Washington County Council of PTAs, featured pleas for school construction money, arts funding and other education priorities.

Foremost on the minds of many was the proposed $12.75 million renovation of South High, which last week failed to receive state approval for funding. School officials will appeal their case to the state Interagency Commission on School Construction on Dec. 17.

"The problem is not going away, and the school is so outdated and so far behind," said Janet Emral Shaool, another South High parent.

Delegation members said they can also make a final appeal on South High to the state Board of Public Works on Jan. 22.

By then the General Assembly will be immersed in another debate - a proposed 10 percent income tax cut, which has drawn praise from business leaders and criticism from those who fear it will lead to cuts in education and social programs.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, a member of the Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee, said the state's reserve fund and other budget moves could cover three years of the tax reduction, but after that some tough budget decisions are going to have to be made.

"That could turn out to be really a difficult problem," said Munson, a Washington County Republican.

Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, said a tax cut should be seen as part of a economic development plan to bring businesses to the state, not a windfall for individual taxpayers. Under Gov. Parris Glendening's plan, a family with a $50,000 annual income will save $167 a year in taxes.

"It don't believe this tax cut should be viewed as money in the pocket of the taxpayers, because when you boil it down, it's not that much money," he said.

Some of those attending the meeting also questioned why the state would consider funding a new stadium for the Hagerstown Suns during a time when school funding is so tight.

Poole suggested that if the state does provide funding for the Suns, it might want to do so with revenue bonds that are paid back through ticket revenue.

"I think that would be far more preferable than a direct grant from the state," he said.

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