Schaefer's Proposed Cuts Anger Workers, Officials

County Delegate Calls Plans 'Unconscionable'

October 02, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

CROWNSVILLE — A Carroll state delegate who serves on the House Budget Committee says the governor intentionally has selected "high-profile areas," suchas social programs and police protection, for deep budget cuts to "outrage" the public and apply pressure for raising taxes.

Delegate Richard N. Dixon, a House Appropriations Committee member, said it seemed premature to make such extensive cuts -- because the budget yeardoesn't close until June 30 -- even though the economy hasn't shown signs of reviving. The Carroll Democrat speculated that the announcement was timed to influence legislators to support tax increases during the current General Assembly special session, which runs to Oct. 25.

He said constituents had been calling his investment brokerage office Tuesday objecting to state police and emergency evacuation service cuts, which he called "unconscionable." The budget committee hasn't had a chance to suggest alternatives, he said.

But County Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy had a different impression after listening to Gov. William Donald Schaefer outline his plan to eliminate a $450 million deficit that developed in the first three months of fiscal 1992.

"I don't think the governor is being vindictive," Lippy said afteryesterday's morning conference here. "Stark reality is what we had here today. All the state legislators should stop moaning and groaningand come up with alternative ways if they don't want to raise taxes."

Most county officials whose agencies would be touched by the reductions were unsure about the plan's specifics and how it might affect personnel or services. The commissioners intend to make budget cutsby Oct. 17, which will affect the agencies.

The governor's proposal to reduce aid to local jurisdictions by $103 million and other direct cuts translate to about $2.6 in lost revenue for the county, saidSteven D. Powell, Carroll's budget director. Indirect cuts, such as financing for Carroll Community College, push the total to between $3million and $3.5 million, he estimated.

The commissioners began planning for the governor's somber announcement in late August, requesting Powell to identify about $2 million in cuts that could be adopted if necessary. Powell has yet to present his office's recommendations to the commissioners. Powell and the commissioners did not discuss specifics of the potential cuts yesterday.

However, commissioners Donald I. Dell and Julia W. Gouge said in August that any major budget reductions this year probably would result in diminished services, layoffs, or both.

The commissioners have asked all county departments and agencies to submit budget reductions of both 2 percent and 5 percent. Although the county cannot legally require the Board of Education to cut its budget, Assistant Superintendent William Hyde said school administrators will search for savings.

The governor outlined proposed reductions in almost every facet of government: welfare; health care for the disabled, poor and addicted; prison and public safety programs; and education. He emphasized that he had warned in January that painful cuts were imminent if difficult decisions on layoffsand taxes were deferred by the legislature.

He said that more than $500 million in "non-people" cuts had already been made, and he wasnow forced to look "where the money is." He said 3,300 state jobs, many of them vacant, have been eliminated, and layoff slips were sent Monday to another 1,766 employees.

He also predicted that some of the cuts would "come back to haunt us," and that he was willing to consider altering the plan.

"It's not in concrete, but it's in slurry that's going to get hard very soon," he said.

Carroll Departmentof Social Services Director Alex Jones said the proposed eliminationof the General Public Assistance program, which serves the medicallydisabled, would result in an average loss of $158 per month for about 60 clients. The approximately 600 families receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children would have their income cut by 2.5 percent.

About $55,000 would be cut from the county's Youth Services Bureau, which would halve the counseling available for troubled children and teen-agers, said Director George Giese.

Powell estimated that about $175,000 would be reduced from non-mandated school programs, such as prekindergarten for the gifted and disabled, and student breakfasts.

Directors of Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., which operates shelters and other programs for the needy, and the county Health Department, said they had not been informed of specific program cuts.

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