County Could Lose As Much As $2.23 Million In State Aid

March 06, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

ANNAPOLIS — Carroll County could lose $2.23 million in state aid, including the entire state contribution toward the Resident Trooper Program, depending on whether lawmakers approve revenue-raising measures to offset aprojected $191 million shortfall next fiscal year.

That loss equals about 11 cents on the county's property tax rate.

"I'm shocked," said County Commissioner President Donald I. Dell."That's like another 2 percent cut for us. We're not even done cutting in the first round."

Aid to Carroll could be reduced by $520,080 for resident troopers, the county's main law enforcement arm; $772,500 for education; $58,031 for fire services; $184,610 for Social Security contributions for teachers and library personnel; and $699,524 in a property tax grant returned by the state, according to a Department of Fiscal Services breakdown of cuts proposed by the House Appropriations Committee.

"Some of these contingent reductions could be very harmful to Carroll," said Delegate Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, an Appropriations Committee member.

The committee has proposed cutting $73.8 million in aid to counties and Baltimore City as part of aplan to balance the fiscal 1992 budget without raising taxes or imposing any new ones.

The $73.8 million in reductions is contingent upon the fate of two revenue-raising measures being promoted by House leaders: one that would apply the state's 5 percent sales tax to the per-package cost of cigarettes, generating about $34 million; and another that would broaden the state's capital gains tax for individualsearning $200,000 or more per year, projected to raise about $40 million for the state.

In fiscal 1991, 45 of the 72 resident troopers statewide worked in Carroll, including one shared by New Windsor and Union Bridge. State money for Mount Airy's four troopers is included in the Frederick County budget. Normally, counties pay 75 percent of the cost. The state pays the other 25 percent.

A total of $715,110in RTP reductions to six counties is proposed. Carroll's budget for the program this year is $2.16 million, including the state contribution.

First Lt. Kenneth L. Tregoning, commander of the Westminster barracks, said each resident trooper costs about $60,000, including acar and benefits. He declined comment on the effect of the proposed cuts, as did Maryland State Police spokesman Chuck Jackson.

Carroll officials said the loss could endanger the existence of the programin some parts of the county.

"We would have to look hard at any cuts in the Resident Trooper Program," Mayor James C. Carlisle of New Windsor said. "We are paying about $22,000 now, which includes everything. If we have to pay too much more, we might consider returning toour own police force."

Union Bridge Councilman Perry L. Jones Jr., who works closely with Resident Trooper Phil Henry, said he hopes the state "doesn't go that route."

"We started sharing a trooper tosave money," Jones said. "If New Windsor pulls out of the program and we have to foot the whole bill, it would be extremely difficult forthe town."

Mount Airy Mayor Gerald R. Johnson said he is "dismayed at the least" by the proposed cuts.

"The way I see it, the county will have to drop the program or raise taxes to cover it," said Johnson.

Carroll emergency services officials declined to comment on a proposed $58,000 cut in state fire aid.

Richard Dell, president of the Carroll Firemen's Association, said he has been expecting somecuts, but doesn't know what the $58,000 loss would mean to the county.

On school cuts, the superintendent and Board of Education members expressed disappointment and frustration that state money could beendangered.

"It would impact us negatively, there's no doubt about that," said board member Joseph D. Mish Jr. "We're just going to have to lobby and fight to save as much of those funds as we possibly can."

Board member Cheryl A. McFalls said such cuts would burden unfairly a school system already laboring under budget problems.

"We're trying very hard to be part of the solution in economic hard times, and I feel it's almost unfair to jeopardize the education system in Carroll," she said.

McFalls and Mish said such cuts would present the system new difficulties just as the September opening of two new elementary schools approaches. Money problems could lead to staff shortages and higher teacher-pupil ratios.

"We're going to end up pulling teachers from all the schools to fill the two new schools," McFalls said. "That is an injustice to the students."

Mish said other hardships could surface.

"Conceivably, it (state funding cuts) could prompt wage freezes, benefits freezes and, conceivably, even layoffs," he said. "I don't think that's likely, but it certainly is on the horizon. We can't say what other kinds of cuts are coming."

Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said cuts in state money would leave the school system with little alternative but to turn to the county government for help, which has its own fiscal woes.

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