Carroll To Lose Millions In 'Doomsday Budget'

Schools, County Officials Suspend Guessing Game

April 08, 1992|By Anne Haddad, Greg Tasker and Adam Sachs | Anne Haddad, Greg Tasker and Adam Sachs,Staff writers

Carroll could lose as much as $10.7 million for fiscal 1993 under the so-called doomsday budget the General Assembly expects to adopt, atleast temporarily.

But because the state's budget and tax proposals are still unresolved, the county commissioners and school administrators have suspended their efforts to compensate for pending cuts inaid.

"I really think it's bad that these fellows have been there 90 days and we still have a budget crisis," said Commissioner President Donald I. Dell. "It's pretty discouraging."

Since the legislature could not agree on a tax increase plan to balance the budget by Monday night, the General Assembly will be forced to adopt a budget that requires an additional $253 million in cuts.

Included in those doomsday cuts would be $95 million in state aid to local jurisdictions, on top of $263 million in cuts already approved.

The doomsday cuts toCarroll would translate to $2.7 million -- $1.6 million for education aid, $812,000 for police aid and $278,000 for Carroll Community College.

However, it is likely that the General Assembly will reconvene after adopting a doomsday budget to consider tax increases that would at least nullify those cuts. The legislature is prohibited from working on any legislation except the budget during the extended session. This ban would include the tax proposals on which some cuts depend.

Carroll Del. Richard N. Dixon, a Democrat, said the doomsday budget, still under negotiation, could include many scenarios of cuts and restorations contingent on tax increases.

"To compare at this stage is an exercise in futility," he said.

Previously approved reductions -- which hinge on a $250 million tax increase -- call for $7.9 million in cuts to Carroll.

Those cuts include: $2.6 million in a property tax reimbursement; $2 million for student transportation out of an $8 million budget; and the state's entire $1 million contribution for the estimated $3 million Resident Trooper Program, Carroll's main police agency.

Most Carroll legislators remain in favor of balancing the budget without increasing taxes.

Republican Del. Donald B. Elliott said, "New taxes would set the stage for new and expanded programs when the economy improves."

But Del. Lawrence A. LaMotte, a Democrat representing Eldersburg and western Baltimore County,said he is convinced that the budget can't be cut any further "without inflicting severe pain. Those people who say there is a lot of fatand waste don't know what they're talking about."

He said he willconsider supporting tax increases, depending on the specific proposals.

"When you're really staring into the abyss, you have to rethink your positions," he said. "I want to do the right thing."

Carroll School Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said the latest figures show county schools could lose about $4.5 million in state money. The schools need about $4.2 million more than this year just to maintain their $5,020-per-pupil spending level and hire teachers to handle the projected enrollment increase, he said.

"You simply can't make multimillion dollar cuts up in a county that ranks toward the bottom of the state in per-pupil expenditures without having impact on the students and staff," Shilling said.

School officials anticipate askingthe county commissioners to make up for some of the expected reductions once they have more solid figures, but they have received no guarantees.

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