County may lose up to $6 million in state aid, leaders say

July 19, 1992|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Harford County likely will lose $3 million to $6 million in state aid over the next six months as a result of spending cutbacks brought on by persistent budget woes, county political leaders say.

That prediction cames just a few days after the Schaefer administration unveiled its plan last week to cut $40 million in aid to local governments, including $1.2 million for Harford, to balance the state budget for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Del. Donald C. Fry, D-District 35A, who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, predicted the state would slash up to $4 million more in aid to the county, on top of the $1.2 million.

Mr. Fry said the Schaefer administration would likely propose the additional round of cutbacks this fall, to balance the fiscal 1993 budget.

"There's not a whole lot left to cut," said Larry Klimovitz, the county's director of administrator. "What are we going to do if that happens? Shriek."

The Board of Public Works -- composed of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, state Treasurer Lucille Maurer and Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein -- is scheduled to meet Wednesday in Annapolis to consider the first round of proposed spending reductions.

Sen. Habern W. Freeman, D-District 34, said he, too, was aware of projections that Harford would lose another $3 million to $5 million, though he disputed the use of the term "cuts" to explain the state's actions.

"The fact is [the state is] probably going to be getting $800 million more in revenue but not the $1 billion we planned for, and they're calling it a $200 million shortfall," he said.

Sen. William H. Amoss Jr., D-District 35A, said state administrators had not told him the exact amount of aid to Harford that will be cut, but they did say the next announced round of state cuts will be to state agencies in an effort to spare local governments.

"We're just going to have to struggle through," said Mr. Amoss. "We're just going to have to pare it until it works."

Mr. Klimovitz said a $3 million-to-$5 million cut on top of the $1.2 million cut now being discussed for Harford County "is not out of line" in proportion to the projected state deficit.

Mr. Klimovitz said that if approved by the Board of Public Works and state legislators, the proposed $1.2 million spending reduction would mean a loss of $402,388 for the county Health Department. Harford Community College would lose $400,178; public safety and police aid, $275,025; and education, $107,057.

Mr. Fry said the possibility of cutbacks to community colleges particularly troubled him. Calling the two-year schools "the wave of the future" now that education at four-year colleges is so expensive, he vowed to fight any cutbacks.

Mr. Klimovitz said that as a last resort, the county could make up for the state cutbacks with about $7.3 million left over from fiscal 1992, which ended June 30.

"But there are more cuts coming," he said. "First, I'm going to see if the agencies can absorb as much as possible."

He said he didn't count on state aid in preparing Harford's $191 million operating budget, but the county is expecting $91 million in direct aid to agencies: $75 million for education; $850,000 for public libraries; $5.4 million for Harford Community College; $1.5 million for the Health Department; $1.5 million for public safety; $600,000 for recreation; and $7 million for highways

Last year, Harford lost about $11 million in state aid sent directly to various agencies and money contributed to the county's general operating budget.

"There was a lack of harmony last year about the revenue projections for this year," Mr. Klimovitz said. "There certainly wasn't a feeling that they were realistic numbers. We said they'd be back for more cuts, and we were right."

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