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Program changes rile mayor

July 16, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - Mayor John W. Slayman said Monday that changes to the Maryland Municipal League's scholarship program have caused him to go "ballistic."

Slayman said he already was upset that the league refuses to award scholarships to the children of elected officials. He considers that an unfair penalty on those students.

The league then decided to simultaneously abolish the scholarships and pay elected officials to attend league conferences, he said.

Scott Hancock, the Maryland Municipal League's executive director, said Tuesday that the scholarships for students and for elected officials are not connected.

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The league decided this year to take the $9,000 given annually to the nine local chapters for scholarship awards - $1,000 per chapter - and pool it into two new scholarships, he said.

These scholarships will go to graduate students at the University System of Maryland's Schaefer Center for Public Policy. Each student will get $4,500 and the Schaefer Center will match the amount, for a total of $9,000 per student, Hancock said.

Until now, each of the nine MML chapters was asked to contribute at least $250 to the $1,000 it received, creating a minimum pool of $1,250, he said. The chapter could distribute the money in as few or as many scholarships as it wanted.

The chapters still may raise money locally and give out scholarships, Hancock said.

He confirmed that children of elected officials are ineligible for MML scholarships.

The Maryland Municipal League is a nonprofit statewide organization devoted to government issues. It is based in Annapolis.

Slayman said at Monday's Town Council meeting that he has asked officials in Washington County's towns to put aside extra money in their annual budgets so the local scholarship program will survive.

A $500 scholarship is "not a lot, but it's a help to buy kids books," he said.

Slayman criticized the league for diverting the scholarship money into payments to elected officials for attending the league's annual conference, but Hancock said that isn't true.

Using a different line in its budget, Hancock said, the league is setting up a scholarship fund so that each year an elected official who never has attended the annual conference may go. There is no money for the June 2004 conference, but the money probably will be in place for June 2005.

Hancock said it costs $350 for one person to register for the conference. Including a hotel room and food, the total cost might reach about $1,000.

He said the league likely will offer one scholarship to pay part or all of the cost for one elected official to attend. The intent is to pay for someone from a small community that otherwise could not afford to send a representative, Hancock said.

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