North East High Scores Budget Touchdown Against Cecil County Commish

June 21, 2012

A concerted campaign by parents, teachers and students at North East High School scored a touchdown Tuesday when the Cecil County Commissioners threw in the flag on a contested play and agreed to pay for new metal bleachers to replaced rickety, splintery wooden seats at the school’s athletic field.

After hearing from a long line of parents, current and former students and the school’s band director, the Commissioners onTuesday agreed unanimously to allow cost-savings by the county school system on other projects to be applied to the bleachers replacement. Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4), who previously indicated reluctance to go along with the project, said she had been misunderstood and had been lobbied recently on the matter by her brother, whose child attends the school.

The commissioners had previously killed a request by the county’s public schools to replace the bleachers—the last wooden athletic stands in the county—as part of the Fiscal 2013 capital improvement budget. (Multiple construction projects were put on hold as part of the Commissioners’ budget-cutting efforts that resulted in a “happy meal” property tax cut of a half-cent on the tax rate, providing most homeowners the equivalent of a fast-food lunch on their annual tax bill.)

But the county schools recently surprised the commissioners by coming up with cost-savings on several other previously approved school construction and renovation projects.

Dr. D’Ette Devine, the schools superintendent, and Tom Kappra, the chief financial officer for the schools, explained that close supervision of construction and renovation projects at the Calvert, Leeds and Thomson Estates schools—as well as a commissioner-mandated delay of planning work on a long-stalled new vo-tech school– saved nearly $1.65 million from the projected costs of the construction and renovation projects.

The schools then asked to apply just $340,000 of the savings to begin planning for reconstruction of the aging Perryville elementary school (a long delayed project that the Commissioners pulled out of the capital improvement budget for Fiscal 2013) and $480,000 to re-construct the North East High bleachers and support systems.

During the “citizens corner” public comment period before Tuesday afternoon’s County Commissioners’ meeting, a long line of North East High supporters pleaded to replace the school’s antiquated wooden bleachers.

Perhaps the most effective speaker was Drew Keim, the North East High band director, who explained that the school’s multiple award-winning band had to host a regional competition at Bohemia Manor High in Chesapeake City. Despite North East’s long legacy of awards in band competitions, the school could not host a meet at home because of the inadequate facilities at North East.

“I implore you,” he asked the commissioners, to improve the bleachers. He also observed that the county schools had been “making wine out of water” and were careful stewards of county funds, despite facing repeated budget cuts.

Commissioner Broomell declared, at a morning worksession as well as during the citizens’ comment meeting, that her brother had called her to complain that she should support the bleachers and gave her a hard time about reports of her past comments that indicated she wanted to consider giving the cost-savings achieved by the public schools to Cecil College.

[See previous Cecil Times report here: ]

Broomell, whose niece attends the school, said she had encouraged parents to create a non-profit ‘booster club’ so that it might apply for local impact aid from revenues provided by the Hollywood casino in Perryville. However, she said her initial comments were motivated by a desire for “more information” on legal requirements for usage of cost-savings by the schools on other construction projects. She sought to blame unnamed county officials or employees for not making it clearer on the options available.

Ultimately, Broomell said she would support the bleachers project—as well as the partial funding of preliminary planning for renovation of Perryville elementary school—and voted with a unanimous majority of the commissioners on a budget amendment to achieve that objective.

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9 Responses to North East High Scores Budget Touchdown Against Cecil County Commish

  1. Broomless on June 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Broomell is shameless. In a prior work session she clearly asked if the the savings could be transferred to the Cecil College tech project since that would be an education use. “Staff” explained problems with that scenario. She never expressed interest in the bleacher option and was clearly in favor of transferring the money to the college. I suppose that the change of heart was driven by pandering to yet another special interest group who would remember her on election day. She should try to be honest and ethical in her dealings and stop blaming others for her actions. DISCLAIMER: I have no connection to NEHS, believe that bleacher replacement and related facility upgrades are long overdue, and think Broomell should go.

  2. Sidney Coleman on June 21, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    A big “Thank You!” to our commissioners for approving this long overdue project! And Thanks to Director Drew Keim for taking the time to attend the meeting and present the facts. Well done!

  3. Katie on June 22, 2012 at 10:23 am

    It’s about time! I graduated NEHS ten years ago, and the bleachers were terrible then. No more “spongey” seats!

  4. Ron Lobos on June 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Once again we have a prime example of not being able to think outside the box. This is what I would suggest. Ask each of these schools to raise 10% of the money needed through private fund raisers. This would give some pride and responsibility to the schools. I find it all too easy to just go to the public coffer and ask for more money for just one more project. Then, if these wooden benches are splintering so bad, why don’t we employ the vo-tec students who are learning carpentry to cut and install new benches.

    This just makes common sense. Again, we need to develop a “Department of Common Sense.” What we must not do is allow commissioners to stack this department of common sense with close friends like they did on the ethics commission.

    • Scott on June 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      I agree with wanting to look for alternate ways to fund projects than hitting the taxpayers all the time; but the way I see it, that is exactly what the school system did. I doubt the previous project came in under budget by accident. Dr. D’Ette Devine and Tom Kappra reported that this fiscal savings was achieved by ‘close supervision’ on those projects. That is an incredible savings that CCPS worked hard to achieve.

      If the funds were not re-allocated to other CCPS projects, what incentive will be there to inspire future oversight and under-budget projects? This is the type of stewardship needed at all levels and departments of government. Unfortunately, this county has grown accustomed to so much waste, fraud, and inefficiency; that they don’t know what to do when the process doesn’t yield the same sort of outcome.

      Yes – encourage the schools and community to have fundraisers and capitol campaigns; but for God’s sake, let’s not reward a department’s hard work by taking away the fruit of their labor. Kudos to the school system and all those involved with saving this money. And also give thanks to the construction company that was honest about the savings and coming in under budget – we can’t forget about them.

      • Russ on June 26, 2012 at 7:15 am

        Good points, Scott. You are right on!

    • SchoolMarm on June 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      Believe me, EVERY organization in the public schools is raising money to cover expenses, such as the bleachers. There is only so much blood, alas, that one can get (or not get) from the proverbial turnip. These bleachers sound like they had become a safety issue and their replacement could no longer be ignored.
      And for all we know, groups at the school had, at one time or another, attempted to raise the money.

  5. Bill Johnson on June 25, 2012 at 9:49 am

    The “Department of Shameless Whackjobs” is already fully staffed…

  6. Scott on June 25, 2012 at 11:45 am

    So, if Broomell didn’t have a personal stake in this decision (niece), she wouldn’t have voted to approve this much needed project??? Typical hack politics.


    Maybe Cecil needs to adopt policies for removing elected officials who are so blatant in their dis-service to the county. This hack is here until her term runs out, but more yahoos like this could be in our future. We need a ‘do-over’ clause, and we can name it after Ms. Broomell so we never forget the reasons why it was necessary.

    I do not have children at NEHS either, but I do have children in our public school system. If there are other parents out there who happen to visit the schools in neighboring Harford county, you know how embarrassing our county’s athletic facilities are. It’s a shame that the commissioners are so eager to give away millions of dollars of tax payers funds to farm owners who don’t need it, yet the citizens have to beg at the feet of this inept local government to replace something that will benefit the whole county.

    I also say congrats to Mr. Keim, but truthfully, if it wasn’t for Broomell’s family interests, your plea would have fallen on deaf ears.

    Isn’t it interesting that because of Broomell’s personal gain here, the rest of the three-headed monster changes their vote too? They seem to share the same brain; maybe they should share the same salary, too. That would be some additional savings that the county could waste on more farmland.

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