OCEAN CITY — Life's been tough for municipal leaders in Carroll and across the state the past year.
Recession has thrashed local economies, and state budget woes have led to cuts in much-needed aid to local governments.
And just when everyone else seems to be talking about recovery, municipal leaders heard Gov. William Donald Schaefer warn yesterday that the worst may lie ahead for local governments.
"I'm not one of those getting up and saying everything's rosy," Schaefer said. "It's just the opposite."
Schaefer's comments came during a speech to the Maryland Municipal League, a federation of local government officials from across the state.
More than 400 members of MML have come to this seaside resort for their 44th-annual convention. And though Schaefer, a former MML member, was well received by the group, he didn't have much good news.
"Pretty much gloom and doom," said Westminster Councilman Stephen R. Chapin Sr.
Said Manchester Mayor Earl A.J. "Tim" Warehime, "He didn't really paint a very good picture at all."
In the effort to contain the budget shortfall, state administrators cut money to municipalities that was to be used for parks and recreation areas.
The cuts could be deeper in the coming year, the governor said.
"This year, coming in, the state will be $200 million in the red," Schaefer said. "Next year, there will be a $5 million shortfall."
The state considered slicing money for the resident trooper program, through which municipalities without their own police departments are served by state troopers.
That money was spared --at least for the current year.
"I'm very apprehensive about whether it (money for resident troopers) is going to survive next year," said Mount Airy Mayor Gerald R. Johnson Jr., whose town is served by four troopers.
"It would be devastating to Carroll County," said Johnson, noting that Carroll is the state's largest participant in the trooper program.
Many members were voicing frustration toward state government for being asked to go it alone in some areas.
"We're the end of the line," said Johnson. "That's where it always stops."
Schaefer, a former city council member and mayor in Baltimore, saidhe was sensitive to the plight of municipal governments in tough economic times.
"He (Schaefer) puts it right on the line," said Johnson. "Sometimes we don't want to hear it. But now it's really coming home."
But the governor offered little advice other than saying towns and cities in Maryland are going to have to find ways to do with less from the state, at least in the short term.
That message didn't come as a great surprise to municipal leaders from Carroll.
"It's going to be a tough time, as far as expecting help from the state,"Warehime said. "I just hope that they don't take away anymore than they have."
"I agree with him (Schaefer) thatwe as municipalities are just going to have to deal with it," he said.
The more optimistic topics the governor discussed pretty much got lost in the shuffle, the Mount Airy mayor said.
"The bad news sort of got everything turning and you didn't think past that," he said.
The governor's speech got off on a somewhat humorous note when an MML member fell off the stage when his chair slid off the riser.
"I knocked him out of seat," Schaefer said to raucous laughter, after it was clear the member was unhurt. "And I haven't even started yet."
Warehime's name was picked in a drawing for a framed ink drawing of a blue heron. Westminster Councilwoman Rebecca A. Orenstein won a $25 gift certificate.