Schools Take A Direct Hit In County's $5.3 Million Shortfall

Budget Woes Bring Immediate Cutbacks

February 24, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

Carroll County's budget deficit nearly doubled last week to $5.3 million, spurring immediate budget cutbacks, reduced work forces and, for the first time, talk of a possibility of layoffs.

"We all know of the tight fiscal realities we're facing," a visibly tired County Management and Budget Director Steven D. Powell told a meeting of the county's Maryland Municipal League chapter. "But I'll give you an ideaof a tight fiscal reality real close to home. Carroll's revenues arefalling, and falling fast."

Powell and the County Commissioners announced Friday that the county's expected $3 million shortfall in its current $115.2 million budget has grown to $5.3 million, on the heels of drastically lower income tax receipts for February.

To fill that hole, Powell's office cut $2 million from the 1991 $50.5 million capital budget, trimmed payment on long-term debt by $425,000 and cut $575,000 from the county'sreserve account.

Also Friday, the commissioners extended their four-month hiring freeze to July, a move that is expected to save the county $639,000.

Those moves, however, still leave $1.2 million left to be cut from this year's budget, and that's where agencies -- including schools, sheriff's services and health programs -- will take the hit.

During an emergency meeting Friday afternoon, Powell directed all agencies to cut their budgets for this year, which ends June 30, by 1 percent.

But then there's fiscal 1992, where Powell foresees a continuation of the budget woes. Although budget hearings and reviews -- already resulting in cuts amounting to about $2 million --have been under way for a month, Powell has directed all agencies toresubmit budget requests 2 percent lower than their revised 1991 budgets by Friday.

For the first time in more than a decade, Carroll County will experience actual cuts in programs, not just a lower rateof increase in those programs.

"Yes, we now have an absolute decline in revenues," Powell said Friday.

Revenues for the current budget year are expected to total $109.9 million, down from the $115.3 million budgeted by the county. For 1992, the county expects to take in $112 million, nearly 3 percent below the amount budgeted for this year.

Agencies will be forced to cut 1 percent of their total 1991 budgets in the last four months of the fiscal year, resulting in a 4 percent drop in funding between now and the end of June. And the 1992budgets are supposed to come in 2 percent below that level.

Whilesaying the current job freeze and the imminent budget reductions would prevent the need for layoffs for the rest of this budget year, Powell did say that the possibility of layoffs exists as fiscal 1992 gets under way.

Even without layoffs, planned increases in the salaries of the county's 875 or so workers are in jeopardy, Powell said.

Also in jeopardy is the recently passed $110.3 million school budget, a budget that will take an immediate $500,000 cut for next year, said county Superintendent R. Edward Shilling.

Carroll County hardlyis alone in its budget woes. Maryland is facing $75 million more in budget shortfalls, on top of nearly $500 million already this year.

"These are difficult budgetary times," Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said in a statement last week. "Employees are to be commended for their extra efforts."

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