Hands-and-knees Plea Gains No Budget Mercy

March 27, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

After County Attorney Charles W. "Chuck" Thompson Jr. literally crawled into yesterday's budget hearing -- begging for more money on his hands and knees -- the sound of machine guns and exploding bombs issued from somewhere near Commissioner President Donald I. Dell's suit pocket.

The noises from Dell's Revenger -- the small sound-effects gadget that lets you think you're blowing away annoying people at thetouch of a button -- was his way of telling Thompson and any other county employee that requests for more money are likely to die a painful death.

Welcome to the latest round in the county's budget show, where spending cuts and frustrated department heads took center stage as the commissioners continued their chopping.

Over the last two days, nearly $17.09 million in agency budgets were reviewed. And, in contrastto the social services agencies that fought to retain services to the elderly, poor and sexually abused, the departments reviewed over the last few days didn't stand to lose all that much money.

That $17.09 million is only 0.5 percent lower than the $17.19 million allocated this year to departments ranging from planning and circuit court to law and finance.

For instance, Thompson's department received a 10.1 percent increase over this year's financing, to $682,375. He hadasked for $747,260.

"There's no fat in this budget," he told the commissioners shortly before Dell machine-gunned him with his Revenger. "All in all, it is an austere budget. But if anything unexpected should happen, we'll have a very hard time with this budget."

WhileThompson's office was dealing with a 10 percent increase over current spending, officials at Carroll Community College were trying to figure out what do with a no-growth budget from the commissioners.

While the college -- a branch of Baltimore County's Catonsville Community College -- requested $2.4 million, the commissioners recommended keeping the budget at $1.9 million.

"Regretfully, under the current state and local budget situations, the college may experience a decline in its level of existing services," said the college's interimexecutive director, Alan M. Schuman, in a letter he presented to thecommissioners Monday afternoon.

Among the cuts at the college under the commissioners' proposed budget is a slashing of evening classes and a reduced number of librarians. Also expected is the canceling of less-popular courses and courses designed for senior citizens and the elderly.

Another county agency that is expected to receive less money for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is the planning department, where its $741,210 proposed budget is 3.25 percent less than the $766,148 in the current spending plan.

K. Marlene Conaway, the county's planning bureau chief, said the reduced budget could mean delayin some department studies, a reduction in the number of planners who can attend out-of-town conferences and a strain on office supplies.

The commissioners remained steadfast in their no-new-taxes pledge. They insist that the county's $2.35 per $100 of assessed valuation is high enough. The commissioners and the county budget office are inthe process of trimming nearly $140 million in budget requests to fit an expected $112 million in revenues.

Other budgets reviewed Monday and yesterday include:

* Public Works, whose $10.4 million would be 2.6 percent less than the $10.7 million it is spending this year.

* Circuit Court will receive $853,285, a 7.2 percent increase over this year's $777,187.

* Natural Resource Protection's budget is expected to total $565,600, down 6.4 percent from this year's $604,175.

* Finance would receive a 6.5 percent increase from this year's $1.42 million if the proposed $1.51 million budget reviewed yesterday is approved.

The commissioners have scheduled budget reviews through next week.

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