Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker says he doesn't want to increase the $2.59 property tax and expects next fiscal year's operating budget to be less than the $270.4 million approved for this fiscal year.
"We will continue to tighten our belts, and it is my hope we can balance the budget without an increase in property tax," he said yesterday.
Mr. Ecker outlined his budget goals in advance of a public hearing on the budget at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, in the Banneker Room in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.
Despite difficult financial times, Mr. Ecker said, he wanted to approve "some kind of pay raise" for county employees and teachers, "butI cannot guarantee it."
County employees received a five-day furlough and no raise this fiscal year, and teachers were denied a negotiated pay raise.
"I hope they will tell me where we can reduce costs," Mr. Ecker said. "It would be nice to hear the public say they don't need this and don't need that. I don't expect the economy to turn around next year."
The executive and County Council approved a $270.4 million operating budget for this fiscal year, which ends June 30. It amounted to a $16 million cut in operating costs, while property taxes rose from $2.45 to $2.59 per $100 of assessed value.
Mr. Ecker cut the operating budget further to $255.9 million because of declining revenues and state aid. "Next year's operating budget will be lean and we will be continuing to freeze positions," he said.