Roger B. Hayden, the Republican candidate for Baltimore County executive, accused incumbent Dennis F. Rasmussen yesterday of bloating the payroll with political appointees and pledged to save $10 million by cutting at least 200 positions.
Mr. Hayden, former president of the county school board, said he would focus the cuts among Mr. Rasmussen's political appointees, which he said have helped to swell the ranks of county workers over the past four years.
The number of county employees has increased from 6,924 when Mr. Rasmussen took office to 7,911.
But county officials said yesterday that half of 987 new positions were for police officers, firefighters and Health Department staff members, and that seven of every eight new positions were hired through the merit system, which is outside the political process.
Mr. Rasmussen said last night that Mr. Hayden's recommendations amounted to "grasping at straws" and "grandstanding."
"It just demonstrates a total lack of understanding on his part about how government operates," the county executive said.
Increases in staff have been due to increasing needs for service over the past four years, such as manpower for the four senior citizen centers that have opened during the four years of his administration, Mr. Rasmussen said.
"What he's saying is we should eliminate 363 public safety positions that have been added to expand our police protection, our paramedic service and school crossing guards."
Mr. Hayden acknowledged that he has not come up with specific positions to cut, but he said he felt safe estimating a cut of 200 jobs after having reviewed the $1.1 billion budget.
He said he would not cut jobs in the school system or police and fire departments, and that rank-and-file clerical workers, secretaries, public works crews and others "who make the government work" would not be affected.
Most likely targets, he said, would be positions such as deputy county administrators and deputies in various departments hired outside of the employee merit system.
"We're not going to lay anybody off who's been out there working," he said. "The people we're looking at are the political appointees."
Mr. Hayden, a former vice president at George Transfer Inc. in Parkton, added that he would cut the Office of Communications budget from $600,000 to $50,000 and save another $1.5 million by working out a better employee health-care benefit package.
At George Transfer, he said, such savings were realized, without loss of benefits to employees, by looking at alternatives such as using insurance carriers that are cheaper than Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
A self-funded health insurance package also should be considered, he said.
County officials said yesterday that they have already saved money by looking at ways to cut back the $63.3 million spent on health care for education, general government and community college employees.