County Prepares For Cuts

August 28, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

Anticipating pending state reductions in local aid, the county is developing a contingency plan to cut $2 million from agency budgets, which could result in diminished services and employee layoffs, the county commissioners say.

County budget director Steven D. Powell told the commissioners Monday that his office will devise a plan in the next month to "freeze" the money. That way, the county will be prepared if the General Assembly orders cuts in aid to reduce an estimated $300 million deficit in the state's fiscal 1992 budget.

The commissioners say they expect that the state will reduce aid to local governments for the budget year ending June 30.

"We're not trying to be alarmist, but we want people to be aware there truly are problems we have to face," Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said.

"We have to be realists," Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said.

Powell said all county departments and agencies receiving county money will be subject to the tentative cuts. The commissioners, who would make final budget decisions, say it would be difficult to avoid cuts affecting services and personnel.

"I don't know how long we can maintain the full employment we have today," Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said. "Two million is a lot to come up with when you're already at a bare-bones budget."

The commissioners will evaluate each position that becomes vacant to decide whether a replacement should be hired, he said.

Gouge said the board wants to keep the work force atfull strength and would focus first on other areas for reductions. "But we can only cut services and capital projects so much," she said.

Services for the county Bureau of Aging, including life-enrichment programs at nursing homes and transportation for seniors, already have been cut by about $34,000 because of state budget shortfalls, thecommissioners said.

They said it is premature to identify services that could be cut.

Legislators are expected to consider several tax increase measures, including adjustments in the sales tax, state income tax and local income tax, when the General Assembly convenes in January, or earlier if a special session is called. Reductions in local aid could be part of the budget-balancing equation, state officials say.

The state provides assistance to local governments for such services as police, fire protection and education. It also returnsa percentage of the state property tax.

Delegate Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, who opposes any tax increases, said he would support cuts in local aid if other cuts in state spending aren't feasible. Hesaid the county may have to consider reducing bureaucracy.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, who also opposes tax increases,said Carroll should prepare for the decreases.

"There's not a thing we can do to react except understand that this could be coming andwatch how we spend money," Gouge said.

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