ANNAPOLIS — Gov. William Donald Schaefer proposed eliminating financing for Carroll's main policing agency, the Resident Trooper Program, as part of a plan to reduce a projected $1.2 billion shortfall for the next budget year.
The governor announced the proposal, along with several other local aid reductions, at his State of the State address Thursday.
The Governor's Commission on Efficiency and Economy in Governmentrecommended the cutback, advising that the state would save $1.1 million in fiscal 1993 by dropping its 25 percent contribution to the program.
The proposed reduction "has been accepted as a given" because of state budget woes, said Delegate Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, adding he doubts the contribution ever would be restored.
"I can't classify it as a surprise," said Commissioner Elmer Lippy.
Counties or towns pay 75 percent of the program, which provides troopers to local government.
For years, Carroll has benefited from the program more than any other county. Currently, 48 of the approximately 72 resident troopers are deployed in Carroll. For the current budget year, Carroll allocated about $2.1 million and the state $520,000. But the state cut about $300,000 in October.
The resident troopers investigate crimes, assist municipal police and the Sheriff's Department, respond to accidents and patrol highways. They operate out of the state police Westminster barracks.
In anticipation of the cut, the county commissioners appointed a committee last month to studywhether Carroll should continue under the state police program and pay 100 percent of the costs, or create a county police force under local control. A county force possibly could be formed by employing some current resident troopers, acquiring some of the existing equipmentand leasing space in the barracks.
Some county law enforcement officials and several Carroll legislators say they favor continuing with the resident trooper program, even if the state discontinues its 25percent contribution, because creating a county force would be prohibitively expensive.
Commissioner President Donald I. Dell says it could be advantageous for Carroll to have control over a police forceif it is paying for it, and that the costs might not be too much greater. The committee will study cost issues.
A governor's spokeswoman said Thursday that the county would be responsible for administering the resident trooper program if it picked up the entire tab. However, Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, said there's room for negotiation.
"The state could at least handle the administrative part and allow the facilities to be used," said the SenateBudget and Taxation Committee member.