Commissioners Have Budget Axes At Ready

'91 Only Getting Worse


May 26, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

The County Commissioners expect to remedy growing shortfalls in boththe 1991 and 1992 budgets by making what promise to be some painful cuts by Thursday.

Management and Budget Director Steven D. Powell told the commissioners Thursday they would have to cut another $1 million to balance this year's budget because of lower-than-anticipated income tax receipts. The commissioners already reduced spending by $5.3 million in several stages to address the continuously worsening 1991 deficit.

Powell also reported that the projected shortfall for 1992 had grown by about $900,000, to $1.94 million, largely because of reduced earnings on bonds the county sold to finance improvements for Carroll County General Hospital.

Coupled with the $500,000 that Powell recommended be placed in the depleted contingency fund, that means the commissioners will have to trim $2.44 million from next year's budget over the next four days.

The fiscal 1992 budget, which takes effect July 1, is scheduled to be adopted at 2 p.m. Thursday in Room 300A of the County Office Building in Westminster. The commissioners are expected to approve cost-cutting measures to balance this year's budget at the same time, or sooner.

"We may burn some midnight oil, butwhat can you do?" said Commissioner Julia W. Gouge. "It was only last week that we heard about the $1 million (shortfall for fiscal 1992). We have to deal with it when it hits."

Commissioners Gouge and Elmer C. Lippy Jr. declined to speculate on cuts that will be made in the 1992 spending plan, saying they will wait for the budget office to prepare a list of recommended reductions for discussion Tuesday. Itwill mark the seventh time the Department of Management and Budget has been forced to reconstruct next year's budget because of plummeting revenue projections.

Social programs, contributions to non-profit agencies receiving government money, departmental operating budgetsand the $35.6 million capital budget all could be targets of the budget ax.

The annual budget hearing May 16 was punctuated by citizens' cries against cutting programs for the disabled and the elderly, the arts and the county's volunteer fire and rescue services.

The proposed capital budget includes $1.9 million in available cash. The rest would be money from bond sales and state and federal aid, which can't be transferred to plug holes in the operating budget.

The budget office now projects a $113.4 million operating budget for 1992, a3.6 percent decrease compared to this year's $117.6 million spendingplan, which gradually has been reduced because of the recession. Revenues from income taxes, shares of state taxes, building permit fees and other sources have lagged.

To help solve this year's remaining$1 million deficit, the commissioners ordered a freeze on all purchases last week, which could save about $110,000, said Powell. Some capital projects likely will be deferred and other measures taken this week, he said.

Budget analysts aren't looking to save only in big chunks. Obscure, small savings that can be realized over the next month are being contemplated. For example, the commissioners will consider employing volunteer fire-police officers at upcoming fire company carnivals to avoid paying overtime to sheriff's deputies; and county employees will not be permitted to charge their own lunches to government coffers when they dine with non-county government clients.

Thecounty's budget situation mirrors the state's, which also shows shortfalls for 1991 and 1992. State reductions could force the county to pass supplemental budget cuts after the 1992 plan is adopted, said Lippy.

"The bad-news hemorrhage hasn't stopped," said Lippy. "It's getting worse. No doubt it's a recession. Or do we call it a depression?"

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