MARYLAND

Enrollment Feeds Howard Schools Budget

The Howard County Board of Education approved a fiscal 2004 operating budget yesterday that is nearly $13.5 million higher than this year's spending plan and aims to keep pace with rapid enrollment growth.

The $442.9 million operating budget, which goes to the County Council for approval, would add more than 65 teaching positions and would include money for a 4 percent pay raise and annual "step increases" negotiated with the teachers union. Money also is budgeted to account for the opening of two schools in August.

The board also increased its capital budget request for fiscal 2004, bringing that total to nearly $87.9 million. Though building additions at some schools were reduced or canceled, the board pushed up two projects originally scheduled for 2005.

The request comes as county revenue has declined because of the sluggish economy and state funding for capital projects has been limited.

"It's a lot of money," County Council member Allan H. Kittleman (R-West County) said of the school board's plan. "I certainly will consider everything they've asked for . . . and find a way to make the numbers work."

War Will Incite Terrorism, Van Hollen Says

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) declared his opposition to a war in Iraq in a speech at the University of Maryland yesterday, saying he believes that an armed conflict will expose Americans to new terror threats at home and abroad.

Van Hollen compared the Bush administration's willingness to ignore opposition from its allies to how the Soviet Union treated members of the Warsaw Pact. Also, he predicted that "a U.S. military occupation of Iraq would be a recruiting bonanza for Osama bin Laden."

Van Hollen told students at the Center for International Security Studies that he was in a unique position to evaluate the administration's policy. As a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff in 1988, he and a colleague traveled to Iraq and helped document Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons against the Kurds. Their findings were the basis for the first sanctions proposal against Iraq.

THE DISTRICT

Forum Set on Convention Center's Future

The D.C. Office of Economic Development has scheduled a community meeting for 6 p.m. today to outline seven proposals to redevelop the site of the existing convention center after a new, larger convention center opens for business next month.

Teams of developers who responded to a request for ideas from the D.C. government are to present their visions for the prime downtown site, where city officials have called for a mix of apartments, retail and cultural facilities, and possibly office space.

The development office is selecting finalists from among the seven, based on their experience and success rate with large projects as well as their proposals. Questions will follow the presentations.

The meeting, postponed twice, will be held at the current convention center, 900 Ninth St. NW.

Mother Charged With Having Gun in Home

The mother of a 7-year-old girl who was found shot in her Southeast Washington apartment Friday was charged yesterday with first-degree cruelty to children, police said.

The woman was charged because the presence of handguns and other items in her apartment created unsafe conditions for children, police said.

A city official said the District's Child and Family Services Agency has taken custody of the girl, her 10-year-old brother and a 2-year-old sibling.

Authorities have said the girl and the 10-year-old were alone in the apartment, in the 3300 block of 22nd Street SE, when the girl found a loaded gun under the bed. Her brother tried to take it away from her, and the gun fired, wounding the girl in her chest. She remained in critical condition at Children's Hospital yesterday.

Smallpox Vaccinations Begin

District health officials kicked off a program to vaccinate public and private members of smallpox response teams yesterday in an effort that soon will reach into local health care facilities.

D.C. Health Department Director James A. Buford and three other doctors were vaccinated by the department's chief medical officer, Michael S.A. Richardson.

In the next few weeks, officials expect to give the vaccines to nearly 300 public health workers and responders from nine acute-care hospitals in the District. They, in turn, will be available to vaccinate others should a smallpox outbreak occur, officials said.

Virginia and Maryland have begun similar inoculation programs.

Art Showcases Long-Gone Buildings

More than 150 paintings and drawings of now-demolished Washington buildings will be on display today through Friday at Edison Place Gallery, located in the new headquarters building of Pepco, 701 Ninth St. NW.

The exhibit, "Washington Never More," will be open daily from noon to 4 p.m.

The paintings are the work of Lily Spandorf, an Austrian native who moved to Washington in 1960 and spent 40 years painting buildings that were slated for demolition.

Spandorf died three years ago at age 85.

Her works were donated to the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

Missing 13-Year-Old Girl Now Home Safe

D.C. police said yesterday that a 13-year-old girl, missing since Feb. 24, returned home safely yesterday. Shawneka Mosee had been last seen walking home from her middle school in the 400 block of E Street NE.

Police did not release further information about the case, other than to say they were still investigating.

VIRGINIA

More Taxpayers Are Filing Online

State officials say that 30 percent more people are filing their state income tax returns electronically.

In all, the state processed more than 682,000 individual income tax returns through Feb. 22, an increase of about 15 percent compared with the same period a year ago, the Virginia Department of Taxation said. About 612,000 refunds have been issued, an increase of 3.6 percent from this time last year.

"The memorial had to be like no other memorial, because September 11 was like no other day."

-- Julie Beckman, co-designer of a memorial that will feature 184 benches

to honor each victim of the terrorist attack at the Pentagon. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Ylan Q. Mui, Matthew Mosk, Debbi Wilgoren, David A. Fahrenthold and Avram Goldstein and the Associated Press.