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The cost of an auditorium at Bel Air High School large enough to accommodate the full student body was $171,000 less than expected, a savings that has helped the town government make up for revenue shortfalls.

At their meeting Monday, the Bel Air town commissioners approved a mid-year budget adjustment, which balances a projected revenue shortfall of $592,000 with corresponding spending cuts.

Several years ago, the town had agreed to pay the difference for an auditorium at Bel Air High larger than what school officials were planning so the full student body could be accommodated, but when the final payment came due this year, it was $171,000 less than the town had allocated, which makes up for a portion of the revenue shortfall.

In addition, the town did not spend $200,000 on planning this year for a major upgrade of town hall, which makes up another large portion of the shortfall.

Among the major reasons the town saw the revenue shortfall were a reduction of $89,000 in money expected from Harford County, the loss of a $70,000 federal Community Oriented Policing Servicing grant and a loss of $45,000 in real property taxes after assessment appeals. The town is also not getting $58,000 it had projected to receive from its new red-light camera.

Dog problem

Several people spoke during the meeting about their concerns regarding dogs running loose off Ewing Street, in the Rockfield Park area.

Greg Sentman said packs of loose dogs have been terrorizing people and have damaged his fence.

“It has become a nuisance. We try to bring businesses into the town and try to bring people in, and a lot of these people [in the park] are from out of town,” he said. “Why should I foot the bill for an improvised dog park in town? It’s a hazard to people in town and anyone who walks along the park.”

Sentman later said he would also take up the issue with the county, which has jurisdiction over animal control.

Amy Sullivan, of Giles Street, also said she has been accosted by about three dogs and now avoids the park because “it’s terrifying.”

Police Chief Leo Matrangola later noted dogs are not required to be on a leash and they are only considered to be at large if they are running around with no owner.

“They either have to be on a leash or under control of their owner,” he said.

He said, however, he will ask a volunteer who normally locks the gate from night until morning to start doing so again, to prevent dog-walkers from visiting the park at night.

“I think with the snow, he hasn’t been able to do it,” he said.

Swinton also accused Mayor Dave Carey of walking his dog in the park without a leash, after which Carey laughed and said, “This is not an inquisition.”

Thanks for the school

Also during public comments, Dante Leoni, a wrestler at Bel Air High School, thanked the board on behalf of the wrestling team.

“I just want to thank you for supporting us and opening the new school,” he said, to which the commissioners replied, “You’re welcome,” and burst into applause.


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