The latest spate of bad economic news from Annapolis brings into focus the dilemma confronting county executives in the Baltimore-Washington region. Already pummelled by plunging county tax revenues, localities are now faced with cuts in state aid. Gov. William Donald Schaefer's plan to erase a $423.2 budget gap includes a 10 percent reduction in local aid, with the richer subdivisions taking the biggest hit. Other cuts in state programs ordered by the governor will force reductions in health and social-service programs in the counties and city.
This is unpleasant medicine for local executives, most of whom are already struggling to balance their own checkbooks. Montgomery County Executive Neal Potter is projecting a shortage of at least $65 million this fiscal year. Prince George's County has furloughed 190 workers to help close a $49.9 million revenue gap.
Closer to home, Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker says that layoffs and higher local taxes may be necessary to ease his county's projected $15 million to $18 million deficit. In Anne Arundel County, which is not yet facing a revenue shortfall, County Executive Robert R. Neall says that he will not expand the work force and has hinted at withholding salary increases in upcoming labor negotiations with county employees.