County Leans Toward Carrying Over Savings

Commissioners Oppose Returning Furlough Money

April 19, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

The county commissioners oppose restoring salaries to government or education employees for furloughs they've been ordered to take, even though state budget cuts for this year are less than anticipated.

The commissioners say they prefer carrying savings over to next year's budget to help compensate for about $7 million in reductions in state aid to county government and education.

"The truth of the matter is we're just not out of the woods," said Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy.

Based on the governor's budget-balancing proposal in December, the commissioners ordered $1.95 million in cuts from education and $1.74 million from county government. Thosecuts included two furlough days for educators to save about $700,000, and either two or four furlough days for government employees -- depending on salary -- to save $350,000.

But the legislature scaled back local-aid reductions for fiscal 1992, resulting in a $1.4 million cut for Carroll, rather than the initial $3.7 million.

Lippy said he anticipates school officials will request that money saved through furloughs be restored to the county's 1,400 teachers. Superintendent R. Edward Shilling has said that he would try to restore the salary cuts to teachers if money becomes available.

"I'm concerned the state estimates will be high (for next year)," said Commissioner Julia W. Gouge. "If they were, we'd have to start cutting again."

School officials have not taken a position, but might discuss the issue at Wednesday's Board of Education meeting, said Board President CherylA. McFalls. The school board also might seek a supplement for its fiscal 1993 budget to compensate for $2.5 million in state reductions, including $2 million for bus transportation.

The commissioners also are close to settling on a preliminary $115.7 million fiscal 1993 spending plan that would represent less than a 1 percent increase overthis year's $115.2 million original budget. This year's budget, which ends June 30, has since been chopped by nearly $7 million.

The tentative plan would include no pay raises for county employees and noincrease in the property tax rate.

"That's our goal, but I wouldn't promise anything today," Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said.

The commissioners oppose increasing the local "piggyback" income tax rate because the economy remains sluggish, and other fees, suchas landfill charges, likely will be increased. The General Assembly authorized counties to raise their income tax rates from 50 percent to 60 percent of what an individual pays to the state.

An increase to 60 percent could generate about $7.2 million for the county, plus a one-time $3.1 million windfall, which could help jump start a stalled construction program and meet other desires.

Proposed new fees and changes in tax discounts for fiscal 1993 could generate nearly $500,000 and could help pay for several high priority items currently omitted from the spending plan, including child and sexual abuse investigators for the Carroll State's Attorney's Office, several road-planning studies, and bulletproof vests for the County Sheriff's Department.

The proposed fees include an increase from $15 to $30 for evaluation of on-site septic systems, a 5-cent monthly phone bill increase for emergency services, a new $25 charge for bad checks, a new charge for reviewing plans for developments in municipalities and an increase in commercial building permit charges.

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