Hcc, Library Fear 'Devastating' Cuts County Could Lose $1.6 Million In State Aid

December 12, 1990|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

Howard Community College and county library officials said yesterday that cuts Gov. William Donald Schaefer has proposed in their budgets for this fiscal year would be "devastating."

Howard County is projected to lose $1.6 million in state aid if the General Assembly approves Schaefer's request to trim $33 million from the state's revenue sharing program.

Preliminary figures prepared by the state budget office indicate that: * The $3.6 million in state aid to Howard Community College would be cut by 46 percent, or $601,000, from an overall budget of $17 million.

* The library is projected to lose 56 percent, or $136,000, of its $242,000 in state aid. Overall, the library has a budget of $6.6 million based on income expected to come from fines and state and county aid.

* The remainder of the proposed Schaefer cuts, $866,000, would be taken from the county's operating budget. State property tax grants would be cut by $626,000. Another $240,000 would be cut from a state fund used for the payments to Social Security for police employees. The county would have to replace that money.

Although Howard was receiving only 3.5 percent of the $33 million in state aid Schaefer wants to trim, it would, if his proposal goes forward, absorb 5 percent of the cuts. Schaefer wants the cuts be "wealth-based."

The money to be cut was earmarked primarily for libraries, police and community colleges, statewide. The aid is usually distributed by complex formulas based in part on population. Schaefer wants instead to base that distribution on a county's property tax base.

"This is the opening salvo in a long battle," county Budget Administrator Raymond S. Wacks said yesterday. "There are still a lot of unknowns."

Howard Community College president Dwight A. Burrill called the potential cut in his budget "devastating," saying "it makes no sense."

The community college "is one place where (laid off) people can get help to acquire the skills and training they need for new jobs," Burrill said.

"Our role is very heavily in the training and retraining area, which is a major need" now that the state is experiencing an economic slowdown. "This is not a wise decision on the governor's part."

Since the college has but three basic sources of revenue -- state aid, county aid and tuition -- it would be virtually impossible for the college to make up the difference, Burrill said.

If the cuts become a reality, Burrill said he would do "an internal analysis" and make recommendations to the board of directors.

Budget Administrator Wacks said the county is still trying to decide "how to handle this," and may pare its earlier request that the college and the library cut this year's expenditures by 5 to 10 percent.

Even before Schaefer's announcement, the county was facing a revenue decline of $17 million to $18 million this year.

Library director Marvin Thomas said the proposed cuts in his budget would be a "disaster." How big a disaster depends on the county and the library board, he said.

"The first thing is to make our state representatives aware of the problem, and have them understand that this is not just a problem for the library but for several agencies," Thomas said. "We are just a small part of the problem."

In order to achieve the library cuts, state legislators would have to reduce by 10 to 15 percent the basic formula by which county libraries are funded, Wacks said, as well as agree to the Social Security payment reductions.

All three officials -- Wacks, Burrill and Thomas -- stressed that they have "not seen anything in writing yet" from the state budget office, but have heard only by "word of mouth" of the planned reductions here.

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