When county officials head to Ocean City this week for an annual conference of local governments, they won't be partying like they did last year -- at least not at taxpayers' expense.
Last year, about 40top government officials ran up a $41,000 tab at the Maryland Association of Counties conference.
This year, County Executive Robert R. Neall has put out the word that the days of wining and dining on the public tab are over.
Faced with a $10 million deficit, Neall sent a memo to the nine executive branch employees accompanying him to the conference. "We expect youto minimize the expenditure of county funds while attending the conference," he wrote. "Only actual, necessary and reasonable expenses incurred while attending the conference will be paid or reimbursed by the county."
The conference will run Thursday through Saturday.
Neall is paying his own expenses, including the $140 registration fee. On Friday, he will join Sen. Laurence Levitan, D-Montgomery, and U.S. Representative Ben Cardin, D-3rd District, in a panel discussion on how to cut government expenses.
Planning and Zoning Officer OwenWhite and Delegate Victor Sulin, D-Severn, the county's urban renewal administrator, also are paying their own expenses. Dennis Parkinson, county budget officer and acting chief administrative officer, is paying his own way except for the registration fee.
The legislativebranch is sending 17 people -- all seven council members, five of their aides, County Council Administrator Judy Holmes, County Auditor Joseph Novotny and three of this staff members.
Three of the council members will stay at their own places in Ocean City; others from the legislative branch will be staying at the oceanfront Quality Inn, where they stayed last year.
"The council's (expenses) are probablygoing to be about the same" as last year, Holmes said, adding she did not know how much of 1990's $41,000 total was spent by the legislative branch.
One expense that has been cut drastically is the county's annual MACo exhibit. Last year, the county spent $11,793 on a re-creation of a section of the B&A Hiker-Biker Trail, including $2,550 for photo enlargements, a $1,856 videotape and $5,175 in promotional pink shoelaces.
Taxpayers also paid registration fees, hotel and food bills for nine county staffers to set up the display.
This year's display, an archaeological exhibit called "Anne Arundel County Digs History," will cost less than $2,000, said Louise Hayman, Neall's press secretary.
"We've rented the smallest exhibit space possibleand we're not giving anything away," Hayman said. "We're going to bea presence, but we're not going to be knocking anybody down with theopulence of our exhibit."
Hayman and three other officials will set up the exhibit, but they will not be registering to attend the conference. Only county archaeologist Al Luckenbach and historic sites planner Donna Ware, who are married, will be staying in Ocean City at taxpayers' expense, Hayman said.
A Friday night reception, with Neall as host, is expected to cost half of last year's event, which hadformer County Executive O. James Lighthizer as host, Hayman said.
The Lighthizer affair, held at the oceanfront Ocean Club, cost $9,552 and featured a menu of scallops baked in honey, oysters-on-the-half-shell and other expensive foods.
This year, the county will spend$4,400 on the reception, with Baltimore County and Baltimore City asco-hosts, at the Ocean Pines Golf and Country Club, several miles west of Ocean City. The Baltimore International Culinary College is preparing the menu, which includes crab soup, potato salad, tomato viniagrette and seafood crepes, Hayman said.