New county construction grinds to a halt Hayden delays projects to avoid finance costs

November 09, 1991|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

Baltimore County officials have delayed work for at least the next two months on any new major construction projects because of the county's budget crisis.

County Executive Roger B. Hayden said the move is intended to avoid paying interest on new bonds that would be needed to finance such projects.

Mr. Hayden said yesterday that projects already planned or announced would be completed eventually, but that the progress of some may be held up because he wants to avoid going to the bond market before January 1993.

He hopes to avoid $8 million to $10 million in debt service this year by not authorizing a bond sale this year.

"By no stretch of the imagination are we canceling any projects. We're just evaluating our plans for the time being so we can see where we are financially," Mr. Hayden said.

But the delay, reported yesterday in the Daily Record, could hurt builders, contractors, developers and engineering firms that depend on winning public works projects to meet payrolls.

"They're all terribly hurt by this," said Edmund F. Haile, an engineer with Daft-McCune-Walker and chairman of the Baltimore County Engineering Society.

Many engineering firms are struggling because of the recession, he said, and a slowdown by the county could put some smaller firms out of business.

"It's going to have a terrible ripple effect all through the industry," he said.

The county faces a $26.8 million budget deficit, caused by a $17.8 million cut in state tax revenue and a $9 million drop in anticipated income tax receipts and local title-transfer tax revenue.

So far, Mr. Hayden has addressed the deficit by not filling 300 vacant positions in county government, directing department heads to trim 3 percent from their budgets, cutting in half the number of take-home county cars, agreeing to sell 55 dump trucks and instituting an early-retirement package.

Fred Homan, county budget director, said that in past years the county normally has funded shortfalls in its capital expenditures -- which pay for major sewer projects and school construction -- with cash borrowed from the general fund. But because of the budget crunch, such transfers are impossible this year.

"The general fund itself is strained, so we can't make the transfers," he said.

Mr. Homan said that the only projects being delayed are the ones that were about to be put out for bid. The delay will remain in effect until January, when the county's fiscal picture becomes clearer, he said.

He said that no school projects are included on the list of delayed projects.

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