Harford officials were looking grimmer than ever last week as they tried -- for the most part in vain -- to assess how the $450 million in state cuts proposed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer will affect county residents and services.
"Government will never be the same again," lamented James M. Jewell, the county treasurer.
"We're worried. These are permanent cuts. We'll never see this money again. It will mean restructuring government. There will be fewer services, and people won't see the same level of services they've had in the past."
That assessment of budgetary reality prompted Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann to invite residents to have a say in the budget earlier than they usually do.
For the first time the executive is planning a public hearing before she presents a final budget proposal to the County Council on April 1, as required by County Charter.
Residents usually must wait until council-sponsored public hearings in April and May to offer their opinions on how Harford's money will be spent.
"We're faced with difficult decisions because of the continuing economic decline, and it's important to hear from our citizens what it is they want from Harford County government," said Mrs. Rehrmann. "We must consider doing things differently and we need their advice."
One reason Harford officials are more worried than ever is that rTC there isn't a lot left for the state government to reclaim. State officials have not yet said what each county must return in state aid.
Here's where Harford's still vulnerable:
* $1.2 million -- Harford Community College.
* $138,000 -- non-mandated aid to education.
* $40,000 -- fire and rescue.
* $18,000 -- police aid.
In addition, school administrators say they could lose $25,000 total from four state grants under Governor Schaefer's discretionary cuts.
Those discretionary cuts, which can be done without legislative authority, could total about $3 million for Harford.
Harford administrators say they fear Harford may experience another $5.25 million to $5.5 million hit this fall or winter for a total loss of about $9.7 in state aid, not including grant money.