Cuts Reveal Leaner Way To Operate

Commissioners Report Finding 'Wasteful Spending'

November 03, 1991|By Adam Sachs and Greg Tasker | Adam Sachs and Greg Tasker,Staff writers

Two county commissioners acknowledged that wasteful spending is inherent in Carroll government, as the board detailed $3.2 million in budget cuts Thursday that reduce services only minimally and won't result in layoffs or carve into employee salaries.

"We've cut in-house things that affect the efficiency of staff," said Commissioner Julia W. Gouge, who did not concede that the current budget includes wasteful spending.

"Nobody is going to miss them on the outside this year. People will say it's pure waste because we could cut it and they can't see it.But it will have a long-term effect if this continues for two years."

A projected state shortfall of $700 million or more next fiscal year, beginning July 1, could mean "devastating" cuts in county government, said Gouge.

For school officials, though, trimming $1 million from the county's $58.1 million appropriation did not mean eliminating waste.

"It's far from being fat," said Brian L. Lockard, Carroll's assistant superintendent of instruction. "Our staff developmentbudget is lower than most (school districts). We're putting those types of things on hold."

County Budget Director Steven D. Powell unveiled 294 items to be cut to county departments, autonomous government agencies and non-profit organizations, totaling $1.5 million. The line-item cuts combined with the education reduction, $136,711 in savings through delayed hirings and $560,577 from a contingency fund will compensate for the recent reductions in state aid.

Budget analysts chipped away at the original $115 million fiscal 1992 budget, cutting supplies, travel expenses, contractual services, equipment purchases, employee training, overtime, building and maintenance and other mostly small-ticket items.

Open positions, including a jail wardenand assistant state's attorney, will remain vacant for eight months;medical expenses for inmates will be slashed 33 percent; snow-removal supplies will be reduced; volunteer fire company contributions willbe trimmed; and road projects will be deferred.

Educators made similar types of cuts that aren't immediately apparent to the public. The Board of Education, at the recommendation of school staff, limitedits budget slashing primarily to administrative services.

Cut were: $60,313 in administration; $67,877, business and finance; $144,000, plant operations; $13,000, facilities; $34,432, maintenance; $48,000 personnel; and $207,378, capital improvement program.

School staff saved about $400,000 through rollover money and cuts in transportation contracts. The savings were credited to more efficient bus routing and other cost-cutting measures in recent years.

"I am being encouraged by the community and staff to nail student programs and activities," said Superintendent R. Edward Shilling. "We're not going to play the game. We're going to set priorities with kids as our focus."

Shilling has pledged to protect classroom instruction and jobs. He says extracurricular activities should not be sacrificed to solve the county's budget woes.

The county's newly balanced budget likelywill be short-lived. County officials anticipate another round of cuts -- broadly projected at $750,000 to $2.5 million -- once the statelegislature acts on a current $150 million shortfall.

Still, the commissioners say they are confident they can handle the coming blow without layoffs, furloughs or salary cuts. Raids on capital project accounts could be the savior next time, they say.

The budget-cutting exercise, in which many non-essential -- though practical -- items were axed has been a lesson and should lead to continued savings in the future, say the commissioners.

"We got in the habit of looking for waste," said Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy, adding that "significant savings" could be realized through personnel and other reallocations being planned.

Commissioner President Donald I. Dell agreed thatsome wasteful spending exists, even though the budget -- decreased by $6 million compared to fiscal 1991 -- has been tightened considerably.

Educators also had to compensate for the loss of $526,405 in state contribution to teacher pensions and Social Security programs through other savings. The state also trimmed $89,122 earmarked for non-mandated programs.

COMPARISON OF NEIGHBORING COUNTY BUDGET WOES

.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Carroll.. ..Frederick.. ..Harford.. ..Washington

Total budget.. .. .. $115.0.. .. ..$139.3.. .. $141.0.. .. .. .$85.0

Total amount cut.. .. .$3.2.. .. .. .$5.8.. .. ..$3.0.. .. .. . $2.0

Total percent cut.. .. 2.8%.. .. .. ..4.2%.. .. .2.1%.. .. ....2.4%

School budget.. .. .. $58.1.. .. .. .$78.1.. .. $78.8.. .... .$43.1

School amount cut.. .. $1.0.. .. .. ..$2.6.. .. .. .0.... .. .$0.20

School percent cut.. ..1.7%.. .. .. ..3.3%.. .. .. .0.. .. .. ..0.5%

How cuts made

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