Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall's fiscal and management skills were never more in evidence than in his $616.6 million spending blueprint for 1992. In a budget season punctuated by red ink and tough decisions, the news yesterday from Arundel Center was no layoffs or higher taxes and increased spending on schools and public safety.
Granted, Anne Arundel's $8.8 million shortfall is considerably less extreme than that of its neighbors and Mr. Neall inherited a hefty $40 million surplus from the Lighthizer administration. What distinguishes the Neall budget is not so much the austerity but the artful compromises.
By offering merit and step increases, but no cost of living raises, the county executive persuaded five of the county's six employee unions to defer negotiations until next year. A similar compromise convinced the county's teacher's union -- one of the state's most vocal -- to forgo raises in return for non-financial contract gains. He has created 80 new public safety and teaching jobs by juggling 80 unfilled positions and slicing capital spending by 18 percent to $95.6 million. His thoughtful, common-sense approach toward the unions worked splendidly; his other steps amounted to prudent, necessary redeployment of resources.