Harford voters must decide Tuesday whether to grant the County Council more power in the budget process.
Question A on the ballot asks voters whether they favor or oppose an amendment to the county's charter that would give the council power to make budget cuts and then move the amount it cuts into a separate contingency reserve fund.
The council has the power to cut any part of the budget, but it may add money only to Board of Education budget. Money that comes from budget cuts that is not shifted to education, is, in effect, lost and cannot be used elsewhere.
If Question A is approved, the council could cut money from the budget but save it in a reserve fund to be spent later. The council could only consider moving money from the reserve if the county executive proposes legislation to spend it. To actually spend the money, a majority of the seven-member council would have to approve the legislation.
Outgoing County Executive Habern W. Freeman, who is unopposed in his bid to become state senator in District 34 after two terms as executive, said he plans to vote against the charter amendment."In essence it's a move by the legislative body to capture money and hold hostage the county executive," he said. "There's no reason for $3 million or $4 million to be in a contingency fund.
Councilman G. Edward Fielder, D-District E, is the council member who co-proposed a council resolution to set up the charter amendment ballot question.
He said the reason the council wants more discretion is because council members often feel they must cut money for new projects proposed during the budget process if the ideas are not fully developed.
"The council frequently gets a new project in front of us at budget time but wants more facts before approving the money for the project," Fielder said.
"This way we can cut that money, put it into reserves and when the county executive brings back plans to us, we can approve the money. This gives us more control over the county executive."