"I'm trying to put Band-Aids on the scars I was left here with. Thisplace was in worse shape than I thought," Sheriff John H. Brown saysabout his request for a 15 percent budget increase.
"What he'ssaying is a lot of bull. He made a campaign promise that he didn't want to increase policing, and he should stick to it," replies former Sheriff Grover N. "Sam" Sensabaugh.
"Looking at these budget requests, however, perhaps we didn't stress enough how much of a problem we're in," says Steven D. Powell, county management and budget director.
"That (request for 17 new employees) caught my eye," says Commissioner Vice President Elmer C. Lippy Jr.
It's no surprise that county officials were shocked when they received Brown's first budget request -- for the fiscal year 1992, which begins July 1.
Brown campaigned against the incumbent on a platform that the agency's law enforcement duties should be down-scaled. Yet his Sheriff's Department request seeks a 25 percent increase; his Detention Center plan asks for 9 percent more.
The county already has a problem with the "D" word (deficit) -- to the tune of$3 million for the current year. Unlike Uncle Sam, Carroll cannot end the year with red ink. (Thank God.)
The commissioners already implemented the "F" word (freeze on hiring) and other money-saving programs to rid themselves of the deficit. They are trying to avoid moredrastic steps, such as as the "L" word (layoffs).
The budget office told department heads that all they could expect next year is basically what they have this year, since revenues are expected to remainrelatively flat. Powell has described the budget situation as "serious . . . but manageable" -- as long as people hold the line.
Brown's 15 percent overall increase -- and especially the 17 new jobs requested -- would appear, at least on the surface, to be far from holding the line.
But to be fair, you need to look beyond the surface. The overcrowded jail, which averages 120 inmates a week, is to be renovated by year's end to house 80 additional prisoners.
Clearly, when you increase the inmate population by two-thirds, you must boost the number of men and women guarding them. Of the 17 new jobs, nine come with the expansion: five more guards, two additional cooks, one added registered nurse and one more secretary.
While the first three requests seem reasonable, the added secretary for the jail and another for the sheriff (each already has two secretaries) undoubtedly willface the "C" word (cut).
The remaining seven new positions are for more deputies, requests Brown said were made by other agencies. He maintains five were requested by judges for courthouse security and two were sought by the Carroll State's Attorney's Office, one each forthe Narcotics Task Force and a new Career Criminal Program.
Whilewe all want secure courthouses, increased drug enforcement and expanded criminal program, the bottom line is that the county cannot afford that high a bottom line.
The commissioners already said they realize increasing the "T" word (taxes) is not the answer.
All of us already face higher federal and state taxes of all kinds (and many ofus also saw our property assessments soar, increasing those taxes aswell). And that's before those of us who live in incorporated towns see what happens to the municipal property tax rates this spring.
County agencies simply must realize that new employees and higher budgets are about as likely as Mayor Ben Brown and the Westminster City Council kissing and making up.