SYKESVILLE — It's no laughing matter, but Town Councilman Jonathan Herman's unorthodox idea to increase town revenue drew chuckles.
"Why don't we tax any state mandates that come down to us?" he suggested at Monday'sTown Council meeting. "Tell them we'll do it for 250 bucks a mandate."
Herman raised the suggestion after Town Manager James L. Schumacher proposed $30,200 in cuts to the current $687,307 fiscal 1992 budget to offset declining revenues, mostly from the state.
Schumacher and Clerk-Treasurer Vince Diffenbaugh worked up a revised $657,107 budget, based on the following anticipated revenue shortfalls:
* State income tax -- $10,000.
* State highway user fees -- $4,000.
* State police protection grant -- $9,500.
* Town trash collectioncharges and equipment rentals -- $4,000.
* Train station rental -- $2,500.
* Miscellaneous rentals -- $4,000.
Diffenbaugh said the figures were estimates, based on cuts that already have been made at the state level.
To make up for the losses, budget cuts in three areas were proposed:
* A 1 percent across-the-board cut in all departments, totaling $4,687 in savings. Departments would be allowed to decide for themselves where to make the cuts, Diffenbaugh said.
* The $10,000 contingency fund would be cut by half.
* Cut $20,513 from the $60,541 Capital Improvements Program budget.
Some help came from increases in parking violations of $1,300 and savings account interest of $2,500.
Part of the budget problem, Council President Kenneth W. Clark noted, stems from state mandates that cost the town hundreds of dollars.
"Take this reforestation law," he said. "That has to be passed by ordinance, and it's $250 just to advertise it."
Such costly mandates have been a source of continuing frustration for Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr., who added that delays in payments from the state also hurt the town budget.
"State checks are habitually late," Helt said. "Not only that, but they don't even tell us what's going on -- how much they're cutting, or when we'll get it. We haven't received any police protection grant money for the last two quarters."
And town officials fear more state cuts are on the way.
"This is taking care of cuts up to this point, but we will need to make other cuts in the future and revise the budget again," Herman said.
"After this round, it's out of things to cut. It's now down to people," Clark said. "There's nothing you can do but to stop (services)you're supposed to provide."
Herman disagreed, saying there were still some things left to cut, but he didn't elaborate.
The council deferred action on the budget proposal until the Feb. 10 meeting, when it hopes to have a decision from the General Assembly on the state budget.