County Looks At Across-the-board 1% Pay Cut

Lippy Sees Few Alternatives

Dell Suggests Furloughs

December 11, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

County workers may bear the brunt of the latest round of state budget cuts, as the commissioners consider an across-the-board 1 percent pay cut.

"It's a little premature at this point to tell you what we're going to do, but there aren't many more places we can go," Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said.

The county's 611 or so full-time employees were warned during the previous -- the fifth -- round of cuts that they probably would not escape the budget ax this time.

And while Lippy said yesterday that salary cuts were possible, Commissioner President Donald I. Dell cautioned that nothing was decided.

"I won't comment on that," he said last night. "I would say furloughs are the next step."

Either way, the commissioners say they have few options but to look toward the county's employees to save money.

Local governments throughout the state will take the biggest hit in the latest budget plan announced yesterday by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Of a $225 million budget reduction scheme, aid to local governments is to be trimmed by more than $142 million.

Carroll's share of that is expected to be close to $3.7 million, bringing the total amount of state money lost byCarroll since October to more than $9.3 million.

"I wish the hellI knew when this would stop," said Steven D. Powell, the county's budget director.

He's not alone. While the governor yesterday did not identify where he was going to make specific cuts, Powell said he and the commissioners will meet over the next several days to formulate a strategy to deal with the cuts.

While Carroll will be hit with$3.7 million in cuts, the county only has to find $2.5 million worthof new budget reductions thanks to a $1.2 million contingency fund set aside during the last go-round from Annapolis.

A 1 percent reduction in county salaries -- which total close to $19 million -- couldsave nearly $190,000.

"It's hard, for obvious reasons, to proposean across-the-board salary reduction," Lippy said last night. "But that option is on the table, and always has been. They say morale is already so low. But the worst blow to morale would be to lose a job."

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge did not return phone calls yesterday.

Even with salary reductions, the commissioners would have to come up with an additional $2.3 million in cuts, some of it possibly from schools, libraries or the courts.

But they have not made that decision yet, leaving school officials wondering where they will have to reduce spending.

William H. Hyde, assistant superintendent of administration, said the school staff didn't know how the state cuts would affect the district's $106 million operating budget.

"We won't know where cuts will be made until we hear from the county and the state Department of Education," he said.

About half the district's budget is paid for by the county.

The governor's latest budget-reduction plan brought little good news to government officials used to nothing but bad news out of Annapolis.

As they struggle with an operating budget for this fiscal year that started out at $115 million and is now down to less than $110 million, county officials are beginning to look toward fiscal 1993.

The next budget -- for the year beginning July 1 -- will probably be even lower than this year's. The commissioners at this point are not expected to resort to an increase in the county's $2.35 property tax rate to make up for shortfalls.

In addition to the cuts to local governments -- which include a nearly $7 million reduction in Program Open Space parkland funding -- the governor is proposing furloughs from one to five days for all state employees, including himself.

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