More than ever, "taxes" has become a four-letter word.
While my grammar school teacher might disagree, I believe the majority of county taxpayers would agree.
While the General Assembly passed one of the largest tax increases in history to balance a large part of the state deficit, local leaders know that avenue is not open to them this year.
The county commissioners and municipal officials have been balancing their deficitsby slashing expenses, in some cases drastically. While some service fees are being increased, they heard their constituents say the only fiscally acceptable three-letter word these days is "cut" -- not "tax."
Difficult decisions, especially on the county level, had to be made, from reducing services to employee attrition and furloughs to postponing needed capital projects. Countless hours, day and night, weekday and weekend, were put in by budget office workers to keep the commissioners abreast of the ever-changing financial picture.
For the most part, you probably have not been directly affected by those reductions -- unless you are a county employee. If you are, you've hadto take from two and four furlough days the second half of this fiscal year, which ends June 30.
While that was a preferred alternative to layoffs, it still represented a 1 percent to 2 percent salary cut for those workers. And that was on top of no pay raises and, for some, an increased workload due to staff attrition.
So far, no moneyhas been included for pay raises in next year's proposed budget either. If that's not bad enough, some county employees fear they might be asked to take furlough days again in fiscal 1993.
That's a fear the commissioners should alleviate immediately. With the county budget under control, government workers should not have to make any more financial sacrifices.
In fact, if it is possible, the commissioners should try to incorporate a small pay raise for employees. That could be accomplished for a few hundred thousand dollars.
And if thatmuch money can't be found, at least those at the lower end of the salary scale should be given small raises. For example, the cut-off could be $20,000, the same figure used to determine how many furlough days workers have to take this year.
Speaking of fiscal matters, Westminster officials are considering making Dr. Martin Luther KingJr.'s birthday a city holiday.
Federal, state and county governments and those in three Carroll town already mark the holiday. Statewide, about 75 percent of the 73 counties and municipalities celebrate King's birthday.
While employees' salaries for the day would tallynearly $9,900, the only additional cost would be about $3,400. That would cover overtime pay for 15 police offices, five dispatchers, three water and three sewer plant operators.
The holiday, originally requested by several workers, was referred to the Personnel Committee, chaired by Councilwoman Rebecca Orenstein.
Tomorrow night, she is expected to propose that the council proclaim King's birthday a paid holiday, effective next January.
Whether the civil rights leadershould be honored with a holiday is not debatable. Except in a few places, like Arizona, that question was decided several years ago.
The time for Westminster to act is at hand. For that matter, Mount Airy, New Windsor, Sykesville and Taneytown would do well to follow suit.
Recognizing King's memory would honor his work, the effects of which are still felt today by people of all races. The $3,400 additional cost is insignificant in terms of Westminster's budget.
Besides, some times you act simply because it is the right thing to do.
This is one of those times.