Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden announced yesterday plans to dip into the paychecks of 20,000 county employees and said cuts in some services for taxpayers likely will be announced by next week.
Mr. Hayden, who faces a $23.5 million cut in state aid announcedlast month, said he plans to furlough all 8,000 government workers for five days and will cut the school board's budget by $7.8 million, which will likely force the same furloughs for its 12,000 employees.
The furloughs, which will save an estimated $13 million, will begin in February and be spread over the next five months on holidays. The Towson Courthouse will be closed on the days of the furloughs.
Mr. Hayden said yesterday that he actually hopes to avoid the furloughs by persuading the legislature to restore the $23.5 million cut. But he said he had to announce the plan -- and plans to go through with it -- in case the legislature approves the cut.
County budget director Fred Homan said the county is $30 million in the hole. Along with the $23.5 million in state cuts, the county is struggling with a $6.5 million deficit from previous state cuts and losses in county revenues, Mr. Homan said.
Mr. Hayden said the deficit will have to be made up in services cuts, but he declined to be specify what may be axed.
He said union leaders and his executive staff saw furloughs as the least painful option on a list of alternatives that included layoffs and pay cuts.
"The obvious end result, or the obvious end desire, is that we save jobs, and we're doing the best we can along that line," he said.
County workers yesterday expressed relief that so far, at least their jobs were being spared.
"I just wish we got to choose the days off we wanted," said Darrell Putty, an office assistant who has worked for the county for 18 months.
But at least one union said yesterday that it will fight the proposed furloughs, and another said it opposes them.
Lt. Tim Caslin, president of Lodge 4 of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the contract representing the group's 1,500 officers specifies no furloughs for cops. His membership agreed at a Dec. 23 meeting that if furloughs were proposed, the union would file a grievance with the county labor commissioner and ask to have an independent arbitrator decide the issue.
Many officers already feel overworked and underpaid, he said. The department is short 47 officers because of a hiring freeze and another 48 officers are committed to retire Feb. 1 because of an early retirement incentive package announced by Mr. Hayden last year.
"We feel like we've already taken our share of the cuts here," Lieutenant Caslin said.
L Similar sentiments were expressed by teachers union leaders.
"We don't agree [with furloughs] and we do not want furloughs," said Ralph Straley, assistant executive director of the 5,900-member Teachers Association of Baltimore County.
For teachers, "no layoffs have been proposed so far," he said.
County School Superintendent Robert Y. Dubel said he hoped that the furloughs could be avoided and that he intended to work with TABCO leaders in persuading the legislature to restore the money.
"I'm not announcing when we would do it [have furloughs] or how we would do it," he said. "I have discussed this with TABCO and we're going to try to work together and reverse this."
County offices will be closed on the furlough days. They are: Feb. 12, Lincoln's Birthday; Feb. 17, Presidents' Day; March 25, Maryland Day; April 17, Good Friday; and May 25, Memorial Day. Two of the days, Presidents' Day and Memorial Day, previously were paid holidays for county workers.