Hayden outlines belt-tightening ideas Hayden aims at inconveniences, not dislocations.

October 16, 1991|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

After a heavy snow this winter, residents of Baltimore County might be snowed in longer. A favorite new book might not be available at the county library. Over time, the county police might have fewer officers in uniform, said County Executive Roger B. Hayden about the new realities of public finance.

And "it might take a bit longer to get answers to questions" about county government activities, said Hayden, meeting with reporters and county employees in a question-and-answer session after his "State of the County" speech yesterday.

Hayden outlined a plan for dealing with state budget cuts that could make life less convenient for county residents, but without major dislocations. The county's operating budget must be slashed to compensate for $18 million in state cuts and a shortfall of $9 million in county revenues.

"We're not talking taxes at all," Hayden said later to a county worker who had wondered if a tax increase couldn't help a bit.

Instead, Hayden wants every department except schools to trim its budget by 3 percent. The schools face a separate cut of $3.2 million in state funding. The 3 percent target is "flexible," because some parts of the county government would not be able to reach that level without cutting jobs, he said.

Hayden said there would be no layoffs of county workers through June 30, barring a new round of state budget cuts.

The 3 percent reduction will save a projected $8 to $10 million, according to Budget Director Fred Homan, and a hiring freeze is expected to produce another $5.8 million. Added to the county's $11 million surplus from last year, the savings would just about cover the budget shortfall.

Hayden's other cost-cutting measures include:

* Delaying or perhaps canceling a police recruit class scheduled to begin next month. The police department has 40 vacancies in its authorized level of 1,581 officers. Over time, with one to three new vacancies a month, the loss of positions might sap police strength, Hayden said.

* Waiting until a snowfall reaches three inches to begin plowing and then concentrating on main roads, leaving side streets for later. A cut of 52 vacant highways jobs last spring has already left the county unable to attack snow as vigorously as in the past.

* Cutting by about one-half the number of workers allowed to take county cars home each night, from 468 to 259, starting this week. Workers who need to use cars for emergencies will have to pay the county 10 cents a mile. This would save a projected $300,000.

* Proposing a cut of $521,000 in library money for buying new books. The library board is considering this, Hayden said.

* Asking the state to relax certain state mandates, for example, allowing the county to keep school buses for longer than 12 years or to delay expansion of curbside recycling.

* Removing 20 percent of county government telephone lines, saving $120,000.

* Selling 55 dump trucks that Hayden says the county doesn't need.

* Delaying from August 1992 to January 1993 the sale of county bonds, which will save $1.5 million in interest payments.

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