Howard budget ups tax rate 14 $270 million budget, OK'd by council, lacks teacher raises.

May 23, 1991|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Evening Sun Staff

The Howard County Council today approved a $270.3 million operating budget that raises property taxes by 14 cents but does not contain money to fund negotiated pay raises for public school teachers.

The council made few changes to the budget that County Executive Charles I. Ecker proposed last month. The tax rate for the budget year that begins July 1 goes to $2.59 per $100 of assessed property value.

"I consider this budget a share-the-pain budget," Councilman Darrel Drown, R-2nd, said before the five-member council approved the budget unanimously. "I think what we've done is curtail some of the excesses of the past administration."

Council members blamed a slumping economy for the budgetary problems. Drown and Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, cautioned that the county, among the state's most wealthy and fastest-growing jurisdictions in the '80s, may encounter more budget woes in the 1993 fiscal year if the economy remains stagnant.

The council restored $1.1 million that Ecker had cut from the public school system's budget by transferring money from other programs. But it stipulated that none of that money can be used to fund the 6 percent raises in the teachers' current three-year contract.

The county government's decision not to honor the teachers' contract has outraged the Howard County Education Association, which is encouraging its members not to volunteer for programs outside the classroom. Ecker, a former school system administrator, and some council members have voiced concern that it would be unfair to give teachers raises when other county employees were not getting increases.

The Board of Education receives 55 percent of the county's budget. It is being allocated $138.5 million, less than the $140.4 million it is receiving in the current fiscal year.

Howard County is making cuts and raising taxes and fees to avoid a projected $31 million shortfall in the fiscal 1992 budget.

County Administrator Buddy Roogow said officials have trimmed costs and borrowed money from other government funds since last fall to offset a $20 million shortfall in the current budget. The Board of Education is returning $2 million of the money it has received since last July.

The council has given the administration permission to borrow ,, another $7 million if needed to balance the budget.

The 1992 budget is $16 million, or 5.6 percent, less than the $286.4 million spending plan adopted last year.

Other reductions included the layoff of 40 employees by Ecker last month and an overall 12 percent cut in county government spending.

The council today also approved a $102 million capital budget that is 45 percent less than last year's plan for improvements to the county's infrastructure and facilities. Spending for school projects was reduced by 10 percent, but officials said the cut would not interfere with construction plans already approved.

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