Commissioners Strive For A Balanced Budget

February 10, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

Bit by bit, the County Commissioners are going to balance next year's projected $116 million budget.

They're doing it by approving money to print a newsletter, but slashing any funding for mailing it to county residents.

They're halting the purchase of a $10,000 car for the County Attorney's Office.

And -- for the second straight year -- they're canning the purchase of a $53,000 color copier.

It's budget season again on North Center Street, and budget officials are warning that if agency heads think this year and its $3 million shortfall is tough, they ain't seen nothing yet.

During the first round of agencies on the budget block last week, the Department of Law and the Department of Public Information both had a total of $194,560 slashed from their fiscal year 1992 requests. The two agencies requested a total of $1.4million for the budget year that begins July 1.

That first round of cuts leaves just less than $23.9 million left to go.

"By the time this is all over, my office will get all of the bruises," Steven D. Powell, director of management and budget, told Commissioner President Donald I. Dell and Vice President Elmer C. Lippy Jr. Thursday afternoon. "And you guys get all of the blood."

Without the cuts, thecounty could end up with even more red ink than it finds itself in this year. With a projected operating budget of $116 million, Powell's office is predicting revenues will remain virtually flat from this year to next. Coupled with the rise in some expenses -- like salaries, supplies and utilities -- the flat revenues means deep cuts.

Thecommissioners have ruled out any increase in Carroll's property tax rate of $2.35 per $100 of assessed valuation, the lowest rate in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

The budgets for the two departments up for review Thursday afternoon reflect little growth, except in salaries. They provide for no new employees, as a continuation of the current four-month hiring freeze appears almost certain for the remainder of the recession.

For Public Information, a $646,790 request was31 percent greater than the current year's budget of $493,751. Powell's office advised slashing that request to $526,220, an increase of 6.6 percent over this year's budget.

The slash means that the $53,000 color copier will not be purchased next year. It also means that the start-up of a three-times-a-year county newsletter will take place -- but without the $20,000 needed to mail it to county residents.

"The newsletter is a priority," said Micki Smith, director of public information. "We'll be looking at other ways of getting it out."

A large portion of the requested increase is related to higher postage and production costs, Smith said.

In fact, the county mails outsome 520,000 items a year. It also makes close to 6,000 photocopies a day -- about 1.5 million a year. All of that comes under Smith's budget.

Also included in public information's budget is $157,445 fortourism. That amount represents a 15 percent decrease from this year's $186,415 tourism budget.

The Department of Public Information employs nine full-time workers and four temporary employees.

For the Department of Law, the budget office trimmed $73,990 from a 1992 request of $748,230. That leaves the department -- which includes the County Attorney's Office and the Office of Administrative Hearings -- with $674,240 for next year, an increase of nearly 9 percent over this year's $620,015. The requested amount would have been a 21 percent increase.

For County Attorney Charles W. "Chuck" Thompson Jr., thecuts will mean less money for travel, no office car, a reduction in legal fees and a lowering of the amount of money the office can spendon books and subscriptions.

The department employs 18 people, including 13 attorneys.

The budget reviews continue next week, with 13 hearings scheduled. Five departments are scheduled for tomorrow, including the Department of Social Services and Department of Permits and Regulations.

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