Budget Requests Exceed Advisory Panel's Spending Limit

March 01, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

County department heads asked County Executive Charles I. Ecker lastweek for $277 million to fund a fiscal 1993 operating budget that includes no new programs or salary increases.

The request is 2.5 percent more than the County Council approved last year and $14 million more than Ecker's financial advisory committee says the county can safely budget for the coming year. The fiscal year begins July 1.

Ecker will hold a public hearing on the proposals at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The $151.3 million requested by the Board of Education accounts for 55 percent of the budget. When projections from Howard Community College are added, the education portion reaches 58 percent.

The school request calls for 52 more teachers, two more health assistants, eight new custodians, two new grounds workers and additional library books. All are needed, the school board says, to accommodate growth and operate two new schools.

Also included in the request is money for increases in medical insurance rates, supplies and replacement equipment, an expanded summer program at Cedar Lane School, an additional nurse for students with complex medical conditions and 33 special education workers.

The biggest increase -- $10.4 million -- over the current budget is in the area of debt service and pay-as-you-go projects. The county saved money last year by refinancing some of its bonds and by transferring pay-as-you-go projects to the capital budget or eliminating them altogether.

This year, requested pay-as-you-go projects total $4.9 million. Capital debt service has increased $3.7 million, to $16.5 million. Also included this year is $500,000 for a rainy day fund.

Ecker tried to get a rainy day fund started last year, but the council said the rainy day had already arrivedand dropped the request from the budget. Ecker wants to build a fundthat in future years would protect the county during hard economic times.The total requested this year for debt service, reserves and capital projects is $23.5 million.

Public safety requests of $24.9 million make up the second-largest category in the budget request.Included is money to replace 15 police cars, add two school crossing guards, cover inmate medical care at the detention center and add 19 positions to the fire service.

Human service requests of $14.8 million includes money for homeless services, nutrition services for senior citizens and opening and operating costs for long-planned branch libraries in Elkridge and east Columbia.

Legislative and judicial requests of $7.7 million include money to replace 11 sheriff's cars, 13 armored sheriff's vests and a sheriff security guard. The Circuit Courtwants to fill its vacant librarian post, and the state's attorney's office wants to hire a clerk typist and another assistant state's attorney.

The departmental budget requests do not include revenue projections. That situation remains unstable, Ecker said in a Feb. 26 open letter to county residents.

"The recession continues to affect revenues and recovery is not imminent," Ecker wrote. "There is no clear indication of the revenue which counties can expect from the state."

Meanwhile, state assessors have estimated the constant yield tax rate -- the rate the county would have to charge this year to receive the same property tax revenue as it did last year -- to be $2.48. That is 11 cents less than property owners pay now.

Since each cent on the tax rate is expected to produce $500,000, the county should receive $5.5 million more this year than last if the property tax stays at $2.59 per $100 of assessed value. If the tax rate remains unchanged, the owner of a home assessed at $150,000 would continue to pay $1,667.

Because of a reduction in state aid, the county may receive only

$255 million of the $270,000 million it had expected this fiscal year. A $5.5 million increase would still leave the county $16.5 million shy of what department heads are asking for. Revenue would be $2.5 million below what Ecker's financial advisory committee told him Feb. 10 that he could expect in revenue for fiscal 1993.

A year ago, the committee told Ecker a safe revenue projection would be $275 million. Ecker proposed a $270 million budget that was hit with a $18.5 million deficit.

COUNTY 1993 BUDGET REQUESTS

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. FY 92 .. .. .. .. FY 92 .. .. .. .. FY 93

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. APPROVED .. .. .. REDUCED .. .. .. .. DEPT.

DEPARTMENT .. .. .. .. .. .. BUDGET .. .. .. BUDGET .. .. .. .. REQUESTS

Education .. .. .. .. 155,730,990 .. .. .. 150230,990 .. .. .. 159,536,530

Public Safety .. ... . 24,226,830 .. .. .. 23,574,430 .. .. . 24,997,675

Public Works .. .. ... 23,437,100 .. .. .. 22,040,210.. .. . 21,460,620

Recreation and Parks .. 4,933,710 .. .. .. .4,816,506 .. .. .. 4,842,150

Human Services .. .. ..14,413,740 .. .... 14,039,040 .. .. .. 14,818,350

General Government .. .20,978,240 .. .. .. 19,645,175 .. .. .. 20,053,470

Debt Service/Reserves .18,868,830 .. .. .. 13,141,830 .. .. .. 23,555,850

Judicial .. .. .. .. .. 7,738,270 .. .. .. .. 7,419,923 .. .. .. 7,777,030

TOTAL .. .. .. .. .. ..270,327,710 .. .. .. 254,908,104 .. .. .277,041,675

SOURCE: HOWARD COUNTY GOVERNMENT

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