The latest metro area county to find itself wrestling with a budget deficit is Carroll, whose commissioners have decided to institute measures ranging from a hiring freeze to lowering thermostats.
Faced with a projected deficit of $2.5 million, the county commissioners agreed to the savings plan about two weeks ago and announced it yesterday in a memo to all departments.
In their memo, the commissioners said they had built the budget for the fiscal year that ends next June on the expectation of a 10 percent increase in income-tax revenue. That was in keeping with a pattern of increases of 12 to 14 percent over the past decade. But November figures indicated that income-tax revenue was increasing only 5 to 6 percent, the memo said.
Steven Powell, director of the county's Office of Budget and Management, estimated the shortfall at $2.5 million, about 2 percent of the $116 million operating budget.
Neighboring counties were experiencing similar shortages in revenue projections, he said. Howard County's new executive-elect, for example, was weighing whether to commission an audit to determine the extent of that county's deficit, estimated at $18 million when the fiscal year ends June 30.
The commissioners' memo outlined the following measures to make up the deficit:
* A 60-day hiring freeze that may be extended another 60 days.
* Energy conservation, such as car pooling to county events, possibly closing the county building for long weekend holidays and lowering thermostats. Room temperatures would drop from the mid-70s to about 70 degrees, Powell said. "I don't think anybody is going to freeze. You lower too much, you lose productivity."
* Close monitoring of agency budgets in the hope of creating surpluses to carry over to the next fiscal year.
* A halt to overnight travel and lodging on county business.
* A hold on capital expenditures. Of the $55 million capital budget, about $7 million includes a "pay-as-you-go" transfer from the operating budget, mostly for road-resurfacing projects, Powell said. The county will decide next spring how much of that $7 million to transfer back to keep the operating budget in the black, he said.