Montgomery Heads For Record Budget

Capital Spending Would Rise 26 Percent

The Montgomery County Council took final steps toward approval of a $3.3 billion budget, which includes the county's largest-ever operating budget and increases capital spending 26 percent. The council also approved a plan to cut the property tax rate by 1 percent while increasing taxes on energy and amusements, including movies. Council member Marilyn Praisner (D-Eastern County) cast the only vote against the operating budget. She also opposed the tax increase plan.

Howard Teen Guilty in Poisoning Death

Jury Rejects Defense's Antidepressant Argument

A jury found 19-year-old Ryan Furlough guilty of first-degree murder in the poisoning death of a close friend and high school classmate, rejecting a defense claim that an antidepressant led to the slaying that stunned Howard County last year.

The prosecution described Furlough's plan to kill Ben Vassiliev, 17, by slipping cyanide into his Vanilla Coke, as methodical and deliberate. Senior Assistant State's Attorney Mary Murphy said the January 2003 slaying was motivated both by Furlough's professed adoration for Vassiliev's girlfriend and by Furlough's sense the boys' friendship was dwindling.

In delivering a verdict for first-degree murder, punishable by life in prison without parole, the jury rejected lesser charges that defense attorneys argued were more appropriate given Furlough's "deteriorating" mental condition. Furlough has been held without bail at the Howard County Detention Center since Jan. 5, 2003. Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. scheduled sentencing for July 20.

Universal Mammograms Urged

Analysis Shows Racial Disparity in District

Elderly and disabled women in the District are less likely to have routine mammography screening for breast cancer if they are African American or live in the city's less-affluent wards, according to a report that encourages universal testing for women older than 50.

The report analyzes Medicare claims and shows that 51 percent of black women ages 50 to 67 and living in the District had a mammogram in 2001 or 2002, compared with 61 percent of whites.

The analysis was prepared by the Delmarva Foundation, a nonprofit group that advises Medicare about health services in the Washington region and other areas.

Hybrid D.C. School Board Backed

Mayor Fights to Keep Right to Appoint Four

The D.C. Council gave final approval to legislation that would preserve the "hybrid" school board -- a mix of five elected members and four mayoral appointees -- until 2006, after which the board would become an all-elected body. Aides to Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said he would veto the bill.

And Rudolph F. Crew, former New York City schools chief whom Williams wanted for the D.C. school system, took the top schools job in Miami.

Mulch Worker's Death Investigated

Relatives Say Victim Was 15; Company Disagrees

The death of a worker who fell into a grinding machine of a mulch-spreading truck in North Potomac is being investigated by state and federal safety and labor officials. Michael Francisco Barrios worked for TopMulch, based in Brookeville in Montgomery County. Relatives said Barrios was 15; the company's owner said that paperwork Barrios had provided showed that he was 17.

Across the Region

More Red Line Trains; Schaefer Unapologetic

* Riders on Metro's Red Line -- which runs between the District and Montgomery County -- will get more frequent service under a plan approved by the transit agency's board of directors. The decision came despite concerns from residents of Arlington and the District that riders on the Orange and Green lines deserved some relief.

* Former Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer (D) handed out bumper stickers saying "Schaefer: He says what you think." Now in his second term as state comptroller, Schaefer, 82, offered no regrets for comments about the difficulty he has understanding Spanish-speaking workers. His views were echoed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). Both were criticized by several advocacy groups.

Milestone: A just-completed southbound overpass is expected to greatly ease congestion in the Mixing Bowl.