Budget Director Takes County Fiscal Woes On The Road

January 30, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

County budget director Steven D. Powell took a sobering story about county finances on the road yesterday.

To 80 county business leaders, the management and budget director told his tale of declining revenues, increased expenses and exploding budgets that stand to make fiscal 1992 one of the toughest the county has ever faced.

"When it comes to the budget, we have to ask, 'How much (money) have we got?' " he said during a regular county Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting at the Friendly Farm restaurant in Westminster. "Thenyou have ask, 'How much can we do?' I'll tell you, we ain't got much."

Powell and his office have been busy trying to pare $140 million worth of budget requests down to the $116 million the county expects to take in between July 1 and June 30, 1992.

"At this point, we're just trying to make up the shortfalls," he said.

On top of worries over next fiscal year's budget, the current year's $116.3 millionbudget is facing a $3 million deficit.

Powell told the group thatmost agency budgets will be trimmed, most of them to current-year levels and even some below current-year levels. He also predicted that some services -- like rape crisis, fire protection, abused children counseling and education -- could face some cuts because of the bleak economic picture.

But even as the county looks for ways to save money and deal with mounting budget concerns, Carroll's business community generally is pleased with how the county is conducting its financial affairs.

"I really think that it is under control," said HelenUtz, the chamber's executive director. "They (county officials) showthat they are anxious to keep bond ratings good, and they show that they can keep things under control. Good fiscal management in tough times is an asset to the business community."

Tough times have hit.Utz said that while Carroll's business community is not suffering universally, many industries -- construction and real estate in particular -- are being hard hit.

And the county's finances show that, Powell said.

Revenue received by the county is not rising as fast ashis office predicted it would. Instead of the 12 percent to 14 percent growth in tax revenues experienced by the county over recent years, the current year's income from taxes is up only about 6.5 percent.

And that is expected to continue into fiscal 1992, when the budget office predicts that growth in tax revenue will remain at around 6 percent. The result, Powell said, is a revenue picture not much changed from the current year.

"The commissioners have a big job ahead of them," he said during the 20-minute presentation. "We're looking at no-growth budgets and, in some cases, reduced budgets. That's the only way we're going to get through this."

The commissioners want to get through this without a tax increase. The business community hopes for that as well, Utz said.

"Carroll businesses have weathered the storm fairly well," she said.

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