County employees probably will receive their last reprieve tomorrow,as the Carroll commissioners announce their fourth round of budget cuts in less than a year.
And while the commissioners are expected to announce that they were able to avoid layoffs or furloughs of the county's 600 employees as they chopped more than $3 million from the county's $115 million budget, an anticipated fifth round of cuts in January probably would hit those workers.
"We're practically milking a dry cow as it is now," said Commissioner Vice President Elmer C. Lippy. "There's not much more we can cut."
At the same time the commissioners deal with their share of $4.1 million in cuts to the county, the school board today is unveiling how it expects to chop nearly $1.1 million from the county's share ofits budget.
Like the commissioners, school board members said that they were able to avoid layoffs or disruptions in vital services. But Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said that further budget reductions could affect employees.
"We want to protect programs and the people that deliver the programs as long as we can," Shilling said.
The superintendent and his staff are looking "very hard" to make cuts in administrative services, in such areas as personnel, data processing, school facilities and maintenance.
In closed-door sessions over the last several weeks, the commissioners and the county's budgetdirector have been trying to cut spending in administrative and support areas as well. Details of where those cuts would be felt have been kept quiet.
"We were trying to put some money back into programscut by the state," said Commissioner President Donald I. Dell. "But to do that, everybody took some cuts. The libraries, the state's attorney, the school board and the sheriff all took their cuts."
He and the other commissioners will unveil the results of their budget cutting during a 3 p.m. press conference tomorrow.
"The board is reviewing all budgets and will cut anyplace where funds can be cut," saidbudget director Steven D. Powell. He would not disclose specific actions the board has taken.
County agency directors, however, said the commissioners have pretty much assured them that layoffs and furloughs are not necessary in this round.
"As far as I know, there areno layoffs in the works," said J. Michael Evans, director of the Department of General Services. "But there are absolutely no frills in these budgets."
One of the budgets left with few, if any, frills isthe hard-hit library system.
Its $4 million budget has been paredby more than $135,000 so far, resulting in cutbacks in hours, periodical subscriptions and book availability. Library officials say, however, that money for construction of the new Mount Airy library is still safe.
But little else in the county's budget is.
According to county officials, social services -- such as programs for the aging-- will be hurt the least by county cuts, while areas of the budget for travel, postage, photocopying and other administrative functions will be virtually eliminated.
Lippy said that while layoffs were avoided for now, an expected budget slashing in Annapolis early next year would probably leave the county with little else to cut.
He said that a consolidation of some county services is in the works, and that it would mean "real savings." He declined to say where such consolidations would occur.
Lippy and Dell said an immediate increase in the property tax was unlikely, unless the budget deficit on the state level left the county unable to perform basic services.
"If Annapolis finds itself in a $1 billion deficit, we're going to have to take some drastic measures. It's intolerable to me to have people outof work and raise taxes."
The commissioners are expected tomorrowto extend the county's year-old hiring and salary freezes, travel restrictions and energy conservation measures.
They also are expected to endorse the $1.1 million in cuts made to the county portion of the school board's $107 million budget.
The superintendent and his staff are looking "very hard" to make cuts in administrative services, in such areas as personnel, data processing, school facilities and plant maintenance.
In data processing, for example, a vacant systems analyst position may not be filled, Shilling said. In personnel, staff and board members may cut money earmarked for recruiting teachers.
"We don't believe we have to impact directly on school-based instructional services this year," he said. "Next year may be a totallydifferent story."
The cuts, to be discussed today at a 2 p.m. meeting at school offices in Westminster, are a fallout from the state'sbudget crisis, which has brought a $4.1 million reduction in state aid for Carroll. Like other agencies, the school board has been asked to reduce its share of county dollars by about 2 percent or $1.1 million, Shilling said.
The county provides about half of the school district's $107 million operating budget.
Board Vice President Cheryl A. McFalls said she agreed, philosophically, with the superintendent in trying to maintain staff and classroom programs.
"But, as a board member, I need to wait and see where the superintendent has proposed cuts," she said.
Staff writer Amy L. Miller contributed to this report.