County Executive Robert R. Neall will introduce a bill tonight giving him broad authority to cut county spending to cover a $7.9 million loss in state aid.
The bill also would reopen the county budget process, an unprecedented move that would require county departments and quasi-independent agencies, such as the Board of Education, to submit new budgets to Neall and the County Council for approval.
The bill would give Neall the authority to cut the budget of any county department and lay off employees. Neall and county attorneys briefed council members on the bill Friday. The council has scheduled a public hearing and a vote on the bill Oct. 28.
The loss in stateaid is the result of a budget reduction plan signed into law Friday by Gov. William Donald Schaefer. The county earlier absorbed a $9.3 million loss in the state's efforts to cover a $450 million state budget deficit.
An amendment to the bill Schaefer signed Friday gives Neall and the council the right to cut workers' salaries by overriding collective bargaining agreements and the authority to cut specific line itemsfrom the Board of Education budget. Neall had requested theamendment, but said the expanded powers it gave him came as a surprise.
Normally, when he presents his budget to the council in May, Neall can only recommend reducing general categories of spending in the school budget.
He reiterated his pledge Friday not to exercise his expanded authority.
"It is not my intention to abrogate contracts or go through the Board of Education budget line by line," Neall said. "It is not my intention, but I would never say never. We don't know what three or four months down the line will bring."
The finaldecision on budget cuts rests with the County Council, which hopes to approve a new budget by Dec. 2.
Both the state law and the bill before the council would expire at the end of the fiscal year June 30.
Neall wants county employees to agree to wage cuts to cover the $7.9 million, either through a 3.6 percent salary reduction, unpaid holidays or furloughs.
But so far, two of six county unions, representing police officers and clerical and technical workers, have votedto oppose wage concessions. The 4,000-member Teachers Association ofAnne Arundel County also opposes pay cuts.
Neall has yet to hear from four county and three school unions.
Neall said he will give pay cuts to unions that accept them and layoffs to those that oppose pay cuts. If no one agrees to wage concessions, 400 to 600 workers would lose their jobs.
Any layoffs or pay cuts would take effect Dec. 5. To meet that date, layoff notices must be sent out by Nov. 5.
Neall will begin a series of meetings with county employees today totalk about wage concessions.
About 40 appointed employees and department heads took a 5 percent pay cut, effective Oct. 10. Neall, whoalso took a pay cut, said he plans a reorganization of his own office that will reduce positions, but he would not say whether there would be layoffs.
In addition to the loss in direct state aid, the county also may have to make up money cut from drug and alcohol treatment centers and youth service bureaus, which lost part of their state aid.
Before tonight's council meeting, unionized county employees plan a protest march. They will leave the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at 6 p.m. and march down Rowe Boulevard to
the Arundel Center. The protest was organized by Lodge 70 of the Fraternal Order of Police and Locals 582 and 2563 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Local 2563 voted unanimously to oppose the cuts last Thursday. President Carol Buttrum said the union will present Neall with a list of cost-saving ideas, such as having workers wash their own uniforms and reducing contracted janitorial services.
"We want to work with the county on a cost-saving plan," Buttrum said. "There's a lot of fat in there. You can't convince me otherwise. Let's take a real good look. The last thing we should do is cut people's salaries."
* In other action tonight, the County Council plans final votes on a bill requiring hotels to provide information on guests to police and a bill to stamp out illicit massage parlors.
Also, Councilman David Boschert, D-Crownsville, will introduce a bill creating new County Council district boundaries. Three council members have co-sponsored Boschert's redistricting plan, but the proposal has already run into opposition from the Shipley's Choice Homeowners Association and the Greater Severn Improvement Association, communities that would be split under the plan.
The meeting will begin at7:30 in the Arundel Center on Calvert Street in Annapolis.