Howard County Executive-elect Charles I. Ecker, faced with a shortfall of more than $10 million this year, said yesterday that the "bleak" financial picture could mean higher property taxes and cutbacks in services.
County officials had said before the election that the shortfall would be about $5 million, and later revised their estimate to $10 million. But the newest estimate pushes the shortfall even higher.
"They are saying it could be more than $10 million now," said Mr. Ecker, who spent his first day yesterday in his transition office. "They say they will have a new estimate later in the week."
The executive-elect said he was concerned that "next year will really be a bad year financially, and it could mean a substantial tax increase or a substantial reduction in services, or a combination."
The county's property tax is $2.45 per $100 of assessed value, down 4 cents from last year's rate.
Mr. Ecker, who had criticized incumbent Elizabeth Bobo's spending habits during the campaign, said he expected the bad financial news
"I said our real problem is likely to be fiscal, and not growth," said Mr. Ecker, a retired deputy superintendent of county schools. "It is clear that the financial picture is bleak."
Budget officer Raymond S. Wacks said the shortfall in the current $286.4 million operating budget could require across-the-board cuts of 4 percent to 5 percent in county departments as well as the school system, library service and community college.
Mr. Ecker also learned that his election to the $80,000-a-year county executive job will mean he cannot collect his $40,000 in retirement pay from the state teachers pension system while in office -- unless he gets an exemption.
He said he has asked Delegate Robert H. Kittleman, R-Howard County, to introduce a bill that would allow him to get his retirement pay.