Harford to consider 'no frills' budget Rehrmann boosts spending by 1.2%

April 02, 1992|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Harford County employees, including teachers and other school employees, would not get raises for a second consecutive year under County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann's proposed "no frills" $188.6 million operating budget.

The fiscal 1993 budget, sent to the County Council yesterday, would leave unchanged the property tax rate of $2.73 per $100 of assessed value. The property tax rate for county residents living within a municipality, $2.43 per $100 of assessed value, also would remain unchanged.

"This is a no-frills budget that will allow us to maintain services, hold the property tax stable and avoid layoffs," Ms. Rehrmann said. "It's our best guesstimate. It's been difficult to predict what the economy will do,much less what the state will do."

Ms. Rehrmann said she kept the budget lean because of low projections for income and property tax revenues for the 1993 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Her proposal calls for an increase of 1.2 percent in the general operating budget, to $142.8 million, from the current fiscal year's $140.9 million.

The county Board of Education would get the largest single outlay -- $76.3 million, or 53 percent. That's about $2.7 million more than the county gave the school board last year, Ms. Rehrmann said. The extra money would be used to hire new teachers for a new Route 543 elementary school and a new Fallston middle school, both slated to open in 1993.

The rest of the proposed operating budget consists of $13.9 million for highway services, $10.9 million for the water and sewer division and $7.3 million for the solid waste division.

For the capital spending portion of the budget, Ms. Rehrmann has proposed borrowing $10.1 million on the bond market. She also proposes spending $1.5 million in cash on various projects.

The capital projects budget includes: $2.7 million to acquire new school sites; $1.5 million for an addition to Bel Air Middle School; $254,000 for relocatable classrooms; and $1 million for the Harford Community College's new apprenticeship and jobs training center.

Harford already borrowed $3.6 million this spring, and that will be counted toward the $10.1 million Ms. Rehrmann has proposed borrowing in fiscal 1993.

Deputy County Treasurer John Scotten said the property tax, which provides 54 percent of the county's revenue, is expected to bring in about $76.8 million in fiscal 1993. Projections for the current budget year show the county probably will collect $71.9 million.

The big concern is that the county's second-largest money source, income taxes, is expected to grow in fiscal 1993 by only 1.5 percent, to an estimated $51.9 million.

"Income tax had been growing at 7, 8, or 9 percent a year, but that kind of growth has stopped," Mr. Scotten said.

He also said that the county's other primary revenue sources, such as permits and licenses, have shown declines as the recession slowed the construction industry.

To offset that drop, the council is considering raising some fees. The fee increases are expected to bring in about $700,000.

Other revenue sources, such as the county's investment funds, also are not expected to produce the yields seen during the 1980s, because interest rates have dropped, Mr. Scotten said.

Ms. Rehrmann warned that county employees should prepare for the tough financial times ahead.

"We're the only one of the big seven [Baltimore metropolitan area] counties that has not done wage cuts, furloughs or layoffs," she said. "We've met with employee groups, and I told them that if the economy turns around in January, we'll try to do something for them then.

"But it's my priority to keep people working."

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