Montgomery County Executive James P. Gleason this week asked the Montgomery delegation Annapolis to consider during the upcoming legislative session two bills which would increase the executive's control over school board spending.
In addition, Gleason submitted a third bill which, if passed, would have serious consequences for the schools since it would release the county from its current obligation to make up any shortfall in the school budget when anticipated state and federal funds are not forthcoming.
Gleason, a frequent critic of the school board's spending policies, withdrew from consideration a controversial bill in which he proposed dissolving the school board and replacing it with an "education director" who would be responsible to the county executive.
Edward Sealover, Gleason's legislative liasion, said the executive withdrew the bill because "some people thought he (Gleason) would become the school board."
Gleason conceded at the public hearing on the proposed bills this week that he recommended abolishing the school board to get public attention.
The executive personally testified in favor of a bill which would give him veto power over any changes that the county council makes in the school budget as the proposes it. At present, the council has the final say on the school budget. Gleason may not veto the cuts or increase the council makes on the school budget as he can on the budgets for other county agencies.
I'm just asking that the school system be placed in the same fiscal perspective as the other agencies," Gleason told the delegation.
He said that over the past seven years the council has approved some $38 million more for the school budget than the executive originally appropriated in his budget proposal.
Under the proposal legislation, the council would be able to override an executive veto.
The executive's bill was opposed by council member Norman Christeller, who said such an executive veto would only prolong the budget process. "At any time he believes the council should reconsider its decision (about the school budget) all he has to do is ask us," Christeller said. Gleason, sitting in the audience, laughed loudly at Christeller's remark.
The executive and the Montgomery County taxpayers League submitted nearly identical bills which would require the school board to respond to any requests for information by the County executive and the county council.
County budget director John Short said such a proposal is "not a new idea, just an amplification of the state code." He said such legislation was necessary since the school board and school officials this past year failed to answer letters sent out by both his office and the county council asking the school board to provide the county government with data on their projected fiscal needs for 1978.
Short said the school board and school administration frequently respond late to requests for data by the county government.
Dr. Kenneth Muir, school spokesman, showed the delegates two binders full of correspondence he said the school system has had with the county government. Muir said the only time the school system has failed to supply the county with requested information was when it was impossible to provide the information because of lack of staff or because the school officials "didn't understand" what was being requested.
"Why then didn't someone from the school pick up the phone and ask the county what the hell was meant by this request?" asked Del. Robert Jacques.
Muir acknowledged that there is poor communication between the county administration and school officials due to "stiff necked bureaucrats" on both sides.
"We're up here hassling with legislative proposals that shouldn't be," Jacques said.
Also at Monday's hearing, the Montgomery County Federation of Teachers proposed legislation which would make the county council rather than the school board responsible for negotiating salaries, wages and hours for school employees. The federation proposed this bill last year as well.
The county council would be opposed to such legislation, according to council member Christeller.
Delegate Donald Robertson, chairman of the delegation said that "the proposed bills would have a chance in Annapolis is the delegation were to approve Ithem. But I would doubt that the delegation will approve them - though some of the votes might be close."
Robertson added that "It's clear that there are problems (between the school board and the county executive) but whether or not they are problems that yield to legislative solutions is questionable."
Robertson said the delegation will begin deciding on October 21 what bills to bring before the general assembly.