Neall Says He Has No Choice But To Bite Paychecks

Restoring Givebacks 'Forgotten' After Latest State Cut

December 11, 1991|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

The governor's latest budget-balancing plan dooms county employees' hopes of being able to avoid giving up part of their paychecks, County Executive Robert R. Neall said yesterday.

The executive had promised to give back all or part of $6.6 million in wage concessions if the county escaped further state cuts. But, he said yesterday, "That's forgotten. (The governor's plan) swamps what the wage concessions would have generated."

Not only that, the executive said, but the state's disastrous economic situation means another pay cut for 11,000 school and county employees is not out of the question.

"I would like not to have to" ask employees for more money, Neall said. "But I'm not going to rule it out. We're not exempting anything."

Neall and other county and state officials have been expecting to lose another $8 million to $10million in state aid. Under the governor's plan -- which must be approved by the state legislature -- Anne Arundel, which has already lost $17 million in state aid, would lose another $14.9 million.

Thatis more than the county is prepared to absorb under Neall's revised,reduced budget, approved by the County Council just seven days ago.

The $225 million budget-cutting proposal unveiled by Gov. William Donald Schaefer yesterday would take $142 million from Baltimore and the 23 counties.

"I had no idea (the local cuts) were going to be that large," said Delegate John Gary, R-Millersville. "I think the governor's lost his senses."

Neall's new $598.5 million budget is $18 million less than the original spending plan and reflects the $6.6 million worth of employee wage concessions. Neall had thought this budget would carry the county through to June 30, the end of the fiscalyear, but now he's not so sure.

"You almost have to take this dayby day," he said.

Though Schaefer's plan has drawn a negative reaction from state lawmakers, Neall said he is preparing for a worst-case scenario -- especially since the governor hinted at another round of cuts in February. Department heads have been told to cull through their budgets yet again, he said.

Neall made the conditional promise to return the givebacks last week as part of a last-ditch effort to ensure that the council passed his budget. Some council members were considering County Auditor Joseph Novotny's idea to avoid wage concessions by raiding the county's contingency fund, fund balance and money for capital projects -- a plan Neall bitterly opposed.

"If we had abolished the wage concessions and depleted those reserve funds (last week) a la Mr. Novotny's advice, we'd be in a fine kettle of fish right now," Neall said.

State lawmakers say they believe the governor designed his plan to rile local governments in an effort to pressure the legislature into approving a tax increase.

Gary said "$15 million is absolutely out of the question. I just don't know where he's going to get the votes to do that, and I don't think he cares."

Sen. Michael J. Wagner, D-Ferndale, said he expects the legislature eventually to approve a mixed package of budget cuts, furloughs andtax increases.


The Department of Recreation andParks announced yesterday that the roads leading into Quiet Waters and Lake Waterford parks will be closed on Tuesdays until July 1, 1992, to reduce costs.

The ice skating rink at Quiet Waters will be open in skating season for walk-in visitors beginning at 2 p.m. Pedestrians will be allowed to use the park grounds all day.

The closingsare designed to save $18,000 in overtime between now and July, parksspokesman Jay Cuccia said.

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