Council Adopts Budget, May Share The 'Blame'

Unanimous Approval Given Ecker Proposals

May 26, 1991|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

If residents become as agitated as teachers and public employees have over the county's new $270 million austerity budget that takes effect July 1, County Executive Charles I. Ecker will not bear the brunt alone.

The County Council will share the blame. With monotonous yeses, the council on Thursday approved the three bills and 41 resolutions that made the fiscal 1992 budget a legislative reality Thursday.

In so doing, the council unanimously adopted every controversial aspect of Ecker's budget -- a 14-cent property tax increase, elimination of raises for county employees and the killing of previously agreed-to pay increases for the 2,700-member Howard County Education Association.

Association members were to receive a 6 percent raise in accordance with a three-year contract.

Despite the tax increase, the fiscal 1992 budget is $16 million less than this year's budget.

Even with the tax increase, Ecker had to lay off 40 employees, leaveanother 119 positions unfilled, increase the amusement tax to 7.5 percent, and raise business, recreation and homeowner fees as much as 100 percent in some cases to make the budget balance.

The three Democratic council members said they would have preferred furloughs of employees, rather than the layoffs. They and the two Republican council members blamed the economy, which all said shows no signs of recovery, for the "hard choices" they were forced to make.

The result isthat county residents will pay more for less service.

Virtually every county department is short-staffed.

If there is no fiscal emergency, delivery of "essential services" will continue, but will takelonger.

The cost to residents is more than increased property taxes.

The owner of a $180,000 home will pay $25 more a year for water and sewer service as well as $200 more in property taxes.

Homeowners will also pay an extra 22 cents a month per phone line for 911 emergency service.

And residents who refinance their mortgages willpay 14 percent more in recordation taxes.

Those who take part in county recreation and parks programs will pay more to play on county-owned ball fields, picnic at pavilions, participate in summer programs and eat at concession stands.

Parents of public school children may experience the budget crunch in other ways.

The county education association has recommended that its members "curtail" their participation in non-paid activities.

Teachers at several schools say that from now until the end of the

next school year, they will no longer act as chaperons, attend PTA meetings, contact parents during evening hours, or tutor students before and after school.

Students at Howard Community College will pay $47 per credit hour -- $3 more than this year -- so the college can afford six additional faculty members.

Like everyone else whose budget is in some way dependent upon county government, the college faculty will not get raises.

The cost of doing business with the county will go up also.

Developerswill find that building permits, electrical licenses and electrical permits cost 25 percent more and that engineering specification fees cost 36 percent more.

It will also cost $5 more a ton to use the county landfill.


.. .. .. .. .. .... .. .. .. .. ..PERCENT

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..FISCAL 1992..INC/(DEC).. . FISCAL 1991

Board of Education.. ..147,527,630.. ..(1.5%).. ..149,729,810

Community College.. .. . 8,213,930.. .. . .7%.. .. .8,159,190

Debt Service, Reserves..18,868,260.. .(12.6%).. .. 21,610,930

General Government.. .. 20,484,210.. .(14.3%).. .. 23,913,890

Human Services.. .. .. .14,897,770.. ..(9.1%).. .. 16,398,730

Legislative/judicial.. . 7,738,270.. ..(4.2%).. .. .8,076,120

Public Safety.. .. .. ..24,226,830.. ..(6.0%).. ...25,763,040

Public Works.. .. .. .. 23,437,100.. ..(12.5%).. ..26,775,650

Recreation & Parks.. .. .4,933,710.. ..(18.0%).. ...6,013,880

TOTALS.. .... .. .. ..270,327,710.. .. (5.6%).. .286,441,240

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