MOUNT AIRY — Only in severe economic times could a pot-luck dish have relevance to municipal budget talks.
On Monday, the Town Council began the arduous task of putting together a budget for the coming fiscal year.
And amid an economic recession and dwindling revenues, the council is scouring every budget nook, seeking areas that can be trimmed.
That's where pot-luck dishes, paper clips and office cleaning come into play.
"These are little things, but put them all together over a year and they make a difference," said Mayor Gerald R. Johnson Jr.
For instance, in years past the town has thrown an annual dinnerto honor people who serve Mount Airy through volunteer efforts.
The $1.5 million budget for the current year includes $4,000 for the dinner, but the council discussed scaling down the event to save money.
Instead, the council suggested a picnic-like event where the town supplies drinks and hamburgers and participants fill out the menu by bringing pot-luck dishes.
Also, framed prints the town gives to volunteers as a token of thanks might come without the frame this year, the council said.
In another cost-cutting measure, the council members agreed to take their $25-per-meeting pay only once a month, though members often attend several meetings in a given month. The town would save $125 if the five-member council went to one meeting for free.
"It's only $125, but $125 is $125," Johnson said.
Other belt-tightening ideas discussed Monday included:
* Using paper ballots instead of voting machines for the May 4 Town Council elections;
* Limiting council participation in the annual Maryland Municipal League convention held each summer in Ocean City;
* Cutting back on the frequency of Town Hall office cleaning from every two weeks to once monthly.
Johnson commended the efforts of the town's office workers for their frugal use of office supplies, which has led to a modest budget surplus for supplies. The mayor described how a town employee arranged to get used paper clips from a local business that previously threw them out.
Despite Monday's budget brainstorming session, the council has plenty of work ahead before fiscal year 1993 begins on July 1.
The council will hold a budget work session at 7:30 p.m. April 9 at Town Hall. The council will draft a proposed budget and tax rate, which will be released April 14 for publication in localnewspapers.
A public hearing on the draft budget will be at 7:30 p.m. April 30, after which the council will vote on the budget and the tax rate.