County Council hears about money for education

CAMBRIDGE — The message came through loud and clear at the County Council’s budget public hearing on May 12: Money for education is money well spent.
Roughly 10 people signed up to speak at the public hearing, and because of the orderly and efficient manner in which they spoke, there was time for a total of 15 concerned citizens to voice their opinions, in the approximately 50 minutes allowed for the meeting.
Comments centered on only three items in the county’s $56,197,566 budget: Support for a new North Dorchester High School, support for Chesapeake Collage, and support for funds to help maintain the Dorchester County Historical Society.
Support for all these causes were overwhelmingly positive, with no negative comments about funding any of the projects, only the question occasionally about where the money might be coming from.
Monroe Quails, a Hurlock resident, approved of the new school concept, but with caution. “I think we need a new school, but we need to find some way other than raising taxes to pay for this school. There are a lot of senior citizens who live on retirement pay, and they just don’t have money to support a tax increase.”
Chesapeake Collage president Dr. Barbara A. Viniar spoke in favor of funding for the college, pointing out that the current proposed line item for Chesapeake College is much lower than fiscal ’13 levels, and that support from the county has been decreasing since. Dr. Viniar asked that Chesapeake College be part of the county’s economic development plans and asked the council to support the college’s request for funding.
Ann Phillips, director of the Dorchester County Historical Society asked for the Society to be included in the budget in some amount, “By supporting DCHS,” Ms. Phillips said, “you will be sending a clear message to the county, and to your constituents that you value the heritage that we are stewarding.”
Herschel Johnson, of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, the East New Market Heritage Committee and the Choptank Region History Network, spoke in favor of funding for the Historical Society, noting that he was earlier that day giving a historical tour of the town for passengers of one of the American Cruise Lines ships that was currently docked at Long Wharf. He pointed out that the cruise ships bring tourists who learn about the region through the efforts of the Historical Society.
Mr. Johnson also spoke words of support for the new North Dorchester High School, although with a poignant note. “I’ll be 75 in July. I lived within walking distance of North Dorchester High, but because of segregation I was not able to attend that school. But every time I think about how old that school is . . . we need another school there.”
Public testimony seemed to have a positive effect on the Council, with discussion during the manager’s comments section of the meeting in which the majority of Council pledged to examine the budget and retain funding for the two schools, and to add a $5,000 line item for the Historical Society.
A public hearing was also conducted on the Fee Schedule for the new fiscal year, an item discussed in previous meetings and all but finalized. No one signed up to speak on the fee schedule topic, at which point County Attorney E. Thomas Merryweather drew a laugh by asking if there was wasn’t anyone in the audience who wanted to advocate for the county to raise any fees.
The meeting adjourned to go into executive session at 7 p.m. There will be a budget legislative hearing and adoption session next Tuesday night at the regular Council meeting, at 6 p.m.

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