WESTMINSTER — The gold-filigreed mirrors, mauve drapes and crystal chandeliers in the banquet room offered a peculiar setting for the county commissioners to reflect on a year of economic blight and relentless slashing of budgets and services.
Speaking at a Carroll County Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Martin's Westminster Thursday, the three commissioners said they were relieved that 1991 is behind them.
"There's no escaping it -- this has been the year of the budget,"said Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy. "It's been a tough year for all ofus."
Traditionally, the chamber invites each of the commissionersto give a "State of the County" address at its first luncheon meeting of each year.
But while the commissioners used the occasion to list what they view as highlights of 1991, they warned that more rougheconomic sailing lies ahead.
"1992 promises more of the same," said Commissioner Julia W. Gouge.
Said Lippy, "Unfortunately, it looks like more is going to come."
During his address, Lippy wasn't bashful about laying a good share of the blame for Maryland's economicmess at the doorstep of the state government, and particularly Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
"Still, the state does not have a full handle on unemployment and reduced spending by consumers, resulting in revenue reduction," said former Manchester mayor.
Lippy chided state administrators for their tax-revenue projections, which often cameup short in 1991 and led to waves of cuts in state aid to counties. Eventually, the county undertook budget revisions based on its own projections, a skill state government needs work in, Lippy said.
"Our estimates were so good I offered to loan (Carroll Management and Budget Director) Steve Powell to the governor, to come up with more realistic projections," Lippy quipped. "We will continue to keep it (county budget) balanced . . . but we need the state to take this crisis seriously."
The commissioners have avoided layoffs of county workers, and Lippy said personnel cutbacks should be limited to the recently authorized four-day furloughs.
Commissioner President Donald I.Dell, also in his first term, used his speech to focus on what he thought were the board's accomplishments.
Dell cited the forming of citizens' committees to study a variety of issues and possible legislation, including growth management, reforestation, mining and recycling measures.
He said tipping fees at county landfills will go up in 1992. Already, the board has increased water and sewer rates.
"Elmer said to me that all these fees are going to put us out of officefour years from now," he said. "But we have to do these things. We've had the courage to work on them."
Dell also lauded the study of whether the county should retain the state-supported Resident TrooperProgram or begin a county police force.
The key factor is who will pay for the service, Dell said. If the state, which had financed 25percent of the cost before the recession, shifts the entire burden for resident troopers to the county, forming a Carroll police force warrants serious consideration.
Dell said the commissioners' accomplishments during the past year include improving communication and theworking relationship with the school board.
Gouge underlined the importance of developing a county recycling program. By 1994, the county must design a plan to divert 15 percent of the Carroll's waste from the county landfills.
"Recycling needs to be more than trendy cause," she said. "It needs to be part of our daily routine."
part of our daily routine."