The emotions of suburban officials reacting to the governor's latest round of proposed cuts to their aid packages ran something like this: Anger, shock, disappointment, dismay, and business as usual.
Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden had no strong reaction today, saying, "When I understand the rationale, I'll comment further." Hayden told Republican legislators at a breakfast meeting today he expected heavy cuts and has been preparing for it since August. However, the county's cupboard is now bare, one participant said Hayden told them.
Another local official familiar with the new cuts said yesterday of the governor and the legislature, "They don't have a conscience when it comes to local government."
The official pointed out that after working for weeks on a massive plan of cuts throughout government, Gov. William Donald Schaefer, reacting to the legislature's proposals made this week, wants to nearly double the hit on the state's largest jurisdictions. The cut for Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George's counties in this latest round was proposed at $10 million each, the maximum the governor said he would allow.
In Howard County, already in the worst straits of any Baltimore suburb, with a projected deficit up to $12 million this fiscal year, Executive Charles I. Ecker expressed shock over the latest suggested cut of $4.1 million.
"It's unbelievable," said Ecker, who faces a total $7.9 million reduction in state funding. "Our worst-case scenario was $5 million . . . Services are going to have to be cut somehow. I don't know what services."
Ecker said he would have to consider laying off more county workers. He laid off 40 last spring.
Steve Powell, Carroll County's director of management and budget, last week asked county agencies to prepare impact statements of how they might handle a 2 percent reduction in response to the governor's initial round of local cuts. Powell also asked them to perform the same exercise with a 5 percent cut, in anticipation that the state would withdraw more aid by January.
Now, the agencies may have to move toward that 5 percent cut sooner than expected, he said.
The total reduction of $4.3 million "would use up a lot of the 5 percent reduction plan we've been looking toward and leave little in reserve for future cuts," Powell said.
In Harford County, Executive Eileen Rehrmann also expressed disappointment that local government has emerged as an easy target for state budget-makers.
"It's been presented as a done deal," she said of the governor's plan to confront the state deficit, "and it's been changed three times since."
Harford is considering several measures to generate more money. Among them are imposing more user fees; levying a utility tax on consumers, which would need legislative approval; and raising the county's cap on assessment increases from 6 to 10 percent, which would generate about $730,000 its first year, she said. All are options, Rehrmann stressed, and ruled out a property tax increase. She also is considering cuts in services.
Anne Arundel County stands to lose an addition $7.9 million in state funds for a total of $17.4 million.
"It's unlikely we can absorb that kind of a cut without it affecting personnel," said Louise Hayman, a spokeswoman for Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall. "It could be in the form of wage concessions. It could be layoffs."
However Hayman said no actions would be taken until the governor and legislators agree to a budget-cutting plan.
"Nothing is firm yet. Things keep changing down the street (at the State House). The county executive wants to wait until a final decision is made," she added.