When County Executive Charles I. Ecker starts work on his second budget with a public hearing Wednesday, he is expected to tell people the county's economic woes will not end soon.
The county will have to endure "a very restrained budget at least one more year," said county budget director Raymond S. Wacks. "We had said last year that we hoped the situation would improve and that the constraints would be temporary. Now we will be telling people to tighten their belts anotheryear or two."
Ecker will set the tone for Wednesday's hearing with a short "reality presentation" outlining the county's dire financial outlook, Wacks said.
Ecker did a similar thing at his first budget hearing a year ago, but few paid attention. Despite his warning that the county would have to raise taxes and borrow money, 50 speakers from a 150-person audience told Ecker to make no cuts in their requests but to increase them, if anything.
What Ecker did instead was raise propertytaxes, lay off 40 employees, eliminate raises and reduce services by12 percent. He also had to borrow $3 million from this year's budgetto balance the budget he inherited.
Since then, the situation hasworsened. Ecker must trim $14.5 million from this year's budget to balance it by June 30 -- the end of the fiscal year. County employees will be furloughed five days at the end of this month as part of the budget trimming.
Wacks said more bad economic news may be coming soon. The state may announce another round of cuts, and prognosticators who saw signs of a slow economic recovery nationwide are now sayingthose indicators "are losing steam," Wacks said.
Regardless, another large crowd is expected to attend Wednesday's hearing at the county office building to tell Ecker their needs and priorities for fiscal 1993. Those who sign up first will speak first.
The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m., and sign-up sheets will be available at 7 p.m.