Campaigning Begins in Debate on School Budget

Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 16, 2006

What do you get when you combine County Council members, the school system budget and an election year?

Answer: heated tempers and nasty feuds.

Here's what happened last week during a packed County Council meeting at the council building in Rockville to discuss County Executive Douglas M. Duncan's (D) proposed capital budget.

Duncan boasts that his $2.7 billion plan includes a record increase in funding to build new schools and modernize old ones. But school officials and parents groups note that the proposal actually delays more than 45 projects by as much as two years because most of the increases occur in the last three years of the six-year plan.

Council member Michael L. Subin (D-At Large), who is closely aligned with Superintendent Jerry D. Weast , is pushing the County Council to boost funding for construction projects in the early years of Duncan's budget.

At last week's hearing, Subin was sharply critical of Duncan.

"What you are saying is the executive didn't do his job, they moved dollars around?" Subin asked a council analyst, according to a tape of the hearing. "I am going to move at our next session that we send that budget back."

Subin added, "We've thrown his [operating] budget out for the last 12 years, and that is what we are going to do with his [capital budget]."

But Subin's criticism of Duncan didn't sit well with council President George L. Leventhal (D-At Large), a strong supporter of Duncan's campaign for governor.

Several council members have been griping privately that they don't believe Subin, as chairman of the council's Education Committee, scrutinizes the school board's budget proposal closely enough in search of potential savings.

During the hearing, Subin said he's inclined this year to approve the school construction budget proposed by the school board.

Leventhal interrupted: "That is what you always do, Mr. Subin."

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