Officials Say Deficit May Force Severe Belt-tightening Fat Goes Fast As Cuts Come Closer To The Bone

December 09, 1990|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Staff writer

The governor's proposal Thursday to cut state aid to counties has Carroll officials, already bracing for a $2.5 million shortfall, wondering how to absorb further losses.

"It causes me great concern," Steven D. Powell, county budget director, said Friday of the plan that would cut state money to Carroll by $752,000.

Aimed at reducing Maryland's $423 million deficit, the package, announced by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, would cut $243 million from the current state budget.

Statewide, $32.9 million in aid to Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore City would be cut, including money for libraries, community colleges and local police.

"It's not going to be easy for Carroll to make up $2.5 million, and if you add another three-quarters of a million dollars, it will be that much tougher," said Eugene Curfman, county finance director.

Maryland Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning spokesman James B.

Rowland said Friday it's unclear how the cuts will be distributed among county programs.

However, if the cuts are approved, the county government's current 60-day hiring freeze almost certainly would be extended, Powell said. And depending on what money was cut from what programs, the county might have to consider laying off some county workers.

"But we'll work very diligently not to have to do that," Powell said.

The governor's plan calls for laying off 1,800 state employees.

Meanwhile, administrators in Carroll municipalities that have their own police forces and therefore face funding cuts, wondered Friday how they would make ends meet if the reductions were approved.

"Every penny we budget for the police department is spent," said Sykesville Town Manager James L. Schumacher. "There's literally no fat in our municipal police budget."

Cutting back overtime and delaying purchases of new equipment would be measures the town's five-man police force might have to consider if the proposed funding cuts become reality, Schumacher said.

Hampstead Police Chief Ken Russell said funding cuts could hamper plans to add an officer to the three-person force next summer.

Others said a lot depends on how much is cut, but that they likely could find ways to make do despite reductions in state money for local police protection.

"Sure, we'd feel the pinch, but it wouldn't put us out of business," said Taneytown City Manager Neal Powell.

About $40,000 of the city's current $150,000 police department budget is state money, he said.

Stephen V. Dutterer, Westminster's finance director, said that "if the state money is cut in half, for instance, it would be a significant amount of money, but it would still have a minimal impact on the city."

"It depends how much it is," said Manchester Councilman John A. Riley, also Hampstead's town manager. "If it's 15 percent to 20 percent, that'd be disastrous."

Powell said the county expects to learn more about the specifics of the proposed cuts during the next couple of days.

And Curfman made it clear he isn't pleased Schaefer is asking the counties to tighten their belts as the state attempts to deal with its budget woes.

"If he (Schaefer) chooses to take the easy way out and pass along some of the burden for his high expenditures to the counties, then that's going to further our burden," the county finance director said.

Staff writer Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

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