County budget could be cut $3.75 million Commissioners anticipated trouble

September 06, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Carroll's budget director estimates that the county will face at least $3.75 million in cuts -- about 3 percent of the current year's operating budget -- when the governor announces his plan to eliminate the state's budget deficit Sept. 15.

Anticipating a difficult budget year, the county commissioners have drafted legislation that would allow them to make line-item cuts in the public schools budget and order a performance audit of the Board of Education, said Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy. The draft legislation would require the commissioners to give a ,, valid reason for making each cut, he said.

At a meeting later this month, the commissioners plan to submit the requests to Carroll's state delegation for possible introduction in the 1993 General Assembly, said Mr. Lippy. Since the requests would require changes in state law, legislation would apply statewide, he said.

Mr. Lippy acknowledged that it would be an "uphill battle," for political reasons, to get the legislation enacted. But he added that "the public is behind it 100 percent when we try to reduce where we can the one source that drains the most money from the county budget."

Mr. Lippy emphasized that the commissioners and school officials should work together to provide the "best education at the least cost" and that the requests were drafted with "no malice aforethought."

County executives and commissions were granted a one-time authority to make certain cuts in public schools budgets for fiscal 1992, which ended June 30. The Carroll commissioners did not exercise it, but requested school administrators to make cuts.

The county could face more than $4 million in cuts -- with more expected later -- if the governor's current plan to reduce a $500 million deficit does not include $665,000 in previously announced cuts to Carroll, said budget director Steven D. Powell. Details from the state are "sketchy," he said.

The plan calls for reductions in local aid to take effect Oct. 1.

Mr. Lippy said the county will continue a hiring freeze. To compensate for pending cuts, the commissioners will consider ordering across-the-board agency reductions, requiring furloughs and trimming a scaled-back construction program.

They also will search for "the proverbial fat," he said. "There are still places where we can cut some, but I don't want to mention them because it starts an employee panic," he said.

Mr. Lippy said he wants to avoid layoffs but would consider that measure before any tax increase.

Mr. Powell will work on a budget-reduction plan at the commissioners' direction after Sept. 15.

"Our ability to pick up cuts made by the state is becoming much more limited," Mr. Powell said.

The county has about $2.4 million in a Rainy Day Fund, which can be used under certain dire conditions after a public hearing. Mr. Powell said he estimates a fund balance between $2 million and $3 million from last year, but that the account should be maintained to show financial soundness to bond rating agencies.

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