Panel Of No Members To Miss 1st Deadline

January 10, 1991|By Samuel Goldreich | Samuel Goldreich,Staff writer

The county will miss its first deadline in the budget process later this month, when the spending affordability committee fails to reporton taxpayers' ability to support the government.

The seven-memberpanel, created by a charter amendment voters passed in November, is mandated to finish reviewing county finances and issue its report by Jan. 30.

But County Executive Robert R. Neall plans to extend the deadlinebecause he has not yet announced his appointments to the committee, which require County Council approval.

The council's next meeting is Jan. 22, leaving only a week for the committee to examine capital projects, the county's five-year capital improvement plan, household wealth, county debt, pay-as-you-go funding of capital projects and alternate sources of revenue.

The council passed a ballot measure tocreate the committee last year in response to demands for greater citizen input in budget and tax decisions.

"Whoever is on the committee is going to have a horrendous, tremendous job to do," said Councilman George Bachman, D-Linthicum. "That committee's going to have to work 16 hours a day unless something is done to extend that deadline."

The administration will do exactly that when it makes its "imminent" announcement of the committee members, Neall's spokeswoman, Louise Hayman, said Tuesday. The deadline will probably be pushed until sometime in March, she said.

The delay in appointing the committee stems from difficulty in finding a representative group of county residents who have experience in finance, economic, fiscal planning or related fields, Hayman said.

Although the deadline is fixed by the charter, County Attorney Steven R. Beard said it is more a guideline than a requirement because the measure fixes no penalties for non-compliance.

With Neall in office only since Dec. 3, it would make no sense to insist that the committee meet the Jan. 30 deadline, he said.

"It fits into the rest of the budget process and it's the first deadline specified, so there is room to slide," Beard said. "It doesn't make sense to interpret a law so narrowly that it defeats the purpose of the law."

The charter established the committee as a permanent panel after the council created a similar body last year to advise on spending affordability for the fiscal 1991 budget. Two members will serve for two years; two others will serve three years and the other three will serve four years.

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