1 When former school budget expert Charles I. Ecker took office lastDecember after upsetting County Executive Elizabeth Bobo in the general election, he sent county employees a letter telling them not to worry -- there would be no layoffs.
Five months later, 40 workers had been laid off, another 1,600 went without raises, property taxes were raised 14 cents and services were cut 12 percent.
What began as a chilly wind became a full-blown storm of increasing velocity. Every three months, the news worsened.
Six months after the County Council approved Ecker's $270 million budget -- $16 million less than the year before -- the county suffered an additional $14.5 million in lost revenue.
The week before Thanksgiving, Ecker announced that trash collection would be limited to one day a week, streets would be left unswept, libraries would open an hour later and all employees (including himself) would be furloughed for five days without pay -- the equivalent of a 2 percent pay cut. Those and other economies announced earlier would enable the county to balance its budget, he said.
"I believe we will never return to the glory years of the '80s," he said at the time.
In December, the state an nounced additional cuts of $8.2 million, but Ecker said he does not expectthe legislature to sustain them. To help out, a handful of county employees made county government their favorite charity and presented Ecker with 14 checks totaling just over $300 to help offset the deficit.
If the state cuts are sustained, they will have to come from the education portion of the budget, Ecker said, because there is only $2.5 million in state aid left in the non-education portion.