Gouge Testifies To Cuts' Effects

January 15, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

ANNAPOLIS — Carroll Commissioner Julia W. Gouge told a Senate budget committee yesterday that future cuts in state aid to the county would force the elimination of programs and reduction of "basic services."

The county plans to compensate for a potential $3.7 million reduction in state aid proposed by the governor mostly through education cuts and capital project deferrals.

Gouge, representing the Maryland Association of Counties, testified at a Budget and Taxation Committee meeting on the effects of statecuts and service reductions on local governments. Several county executives and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke explained that deeper cuts could jeopardize basic services.

They requested that local jurisdictions be granted broader authority to raise revenue.

Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown also testified, saying that any further cuts in aid to police would force the city to eliminate or curtail special law enforcement programs, such as community education, participation in a county drug strike force, and efforts to crack down on drunken driving.

The state trimmed $91,000 out of $299,000 in police grants to Westminster during an October budget reduction, said Brown. The city kept special police programs intact by making internal cuts and deferring projects, he said.

In December, Gov. William Donald Schaefer proposed reducing aid by $142.5 million -- including $3.7 million for Carroll -- to help eliminate the latest $225 million deficit.The legislature can change that plan.

Previously, the county madeover $4 million in cuts to its original $115 million budget because of reductions in state aid.

Gouge listed measures that have enabled the county, which cannot raise any additional revenue in mid-year, to stay afloat financially: a hiring freeze; no salary or step increases for employees; a 7.5 percent staff reduction through attrition; near depletion of the contingency fund; capital project deferrals; library closings; four-day employee furloughs; and wide-ranging line-item cuts.

The Board of Education has cut $1 million from its original $58 million in county money, and the commissioners have requested another $1.95 million reduction if the governor's plan is approved. County government would come up with the other $1.7 million.

"These are short fixes that will aggravate long-term costs," said Gouge.

Gouge said it is undetermined which programs or services would be cutif the legislature orders severe reductions. Program eliminations could mean layoffs.

Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, asked Gouge whether the commissioners intend to reduce salaries and positions in education administration, an authority granted forthis budget year by the General Assembly.

"It seems public opinion is that education is top-heavy in administration," he said.

Gouge responded that the commissioners are allowing education officials to decide where to cut, and that the school board believes administration isn't top-heavy.

The governor's proposal last week to eliminate some revenue sharing and the Resident Trooper Program could amount to nearly $5 million in lost revenue to Carroll in fiscal 1993, Gougesaid.

She said she could support an increase in the 5 percent sales tax, or an expansion of the sales tax to services. But she said she opposed allowing counties to increase the local "piggyback" income tax rate.

"That's simply putting the burden on us, while still taking state aid," she said. "It's a double whammy."

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