Washington County to get $85.5 million

April 12, 1997


Staff Writer

In a state budget of $15.4 billion, a mere $35,000 might seem microscopic in its impact - but for Mary Pierce it makes all the difference in the world.

That's because the money, approved last week by the Maryland General Assembly, will be used to purchase recreational equipment that can be used by people with disabilities.

"We're going to try to make Washington County a showcase for accessible recreation in the United States," said Pierce, vice president of Mentally Impaired or Handicapped Individuals Inc., known as MiHi.


Her group was one of the winners in the state budget, which included $85.5 million in aid next year for county schools, roads, community centers, sewer systems and other projects - leaving lawmakers neither disappointed nor cheering.

"It's about what I expected," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, chairman of the county's legislative delegation.

As is usually the case, the bulk of the state aid is going to education, with $62.9 million to be spent on primary and secondary schools in the county.

Schools Superintendent Wayne F. Gersen said the appropriation is a bit of a relief because the legislature also passed an income tax cut this year, which many feared could have led to cuts in school funding to make up for the lost revenue.

"There's a part of me that's not displeased," he said.

In the closing days of the legislature's 90-day session the county received an additional $981,381 in educational funding as part of a deal to spend extra school money statewide. The dollars are mostly targeted for programs helping children from low-income families, which limits where the school system can spend the money, but Gersen said the additional funds are welcome.

"All of the things that they are sending us the money for are needs of the system, so we are appreciative of those additional funds," Gersen said.

About $165,000 of the additional education money will go to Hagerstown Junior College to help the college make up for dollars it had lost through a new state funding formula.

That will be part of an overall $4.3 million state appropriation for the college.

"Anything more than zero is a plus," said HJC President Norman P. Shea.

Local lawmakers were successful in getting $75,000 in state funds for the Hancock Community Center/Town Hall. The money will be used for a variety of renovation projects, including repairs to the roof, a new air conditioning system and installing tiles on the concrete floors.

"It's good that these small towns get this money because we couldn't do it on our own," said Town Manager Lou Close.

One project local lawmakers were unsuccessful in securing funding for was a $250,000 grant to help pay for a new headquarters building for Community Rescue Service.

The request was turned down after state officials expressed concern that they had never paid for a rescue company building in the past and could set a dangerous precedent.

"It's a disappointment. We had certainly hoped for a favorable response," said Xanthy Munson Hoover, fundraising coordinator for the rescue service.

Hoover said the lack of state funding will just force her organization to raise locally more money.

They are still scheduling to begin work later this year on the $1.3 million project on Eastern Boulevard.

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