State cuts will force health department layoffs

September 27, 1992|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

The latest round of state budget cuts will mean layoffs at the Carroll County Health Department, and probably clinic closings and increased fees for services, a department spokesman says.

A decision on how many people would be laid off had not been made by Friday, spokesman Larry Leitch said. Specifics probably will be made final Tuesday, he said.

The health department is slated to lose $783,457 in state money on Oct. 1, which could mean closing GYN, tuberculin testing and child health screening clinics, plus reducing vision and hearing screenings in schools and community health nurse services, county budget Director Steven D. Powell said Friday.

"The health department was struck hardest in the last two rounds of cuts, and they're being hit hard again," Mr. Powell told the county commissioners at a budget briefing.

The cuts also could mean the end to such environmental services as educational programs, observation of well pump tests, and safety and hazard inspections.

Health officials will propose an increase in fees to the commissioners this week to try to maintain some of the services, Mr. Leitch said in an interview later.

The county budgeted about $1.9 million for its share of the health department's budget for the current fiscal year.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said he wants to see county funding kept at the same level to maintain services.

"I can't think of anything more important than our health," he said.

The commissioners will begin working this week to cut about $5 million from the county's $119.3 million budget to help ease the state's half-billion-dollar deficit.

Mr. Powell detailed areas in which the commissioners could cut about $1.9 million. The largest savings -- $650,000 -- could come from refinancing debt to take advantage of current lower interest rates, he said.

The commissioners have said they want to avoid layoffs.

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said she doesn't want any county departments or agencies to have to take more cuts.

"They have constantly taken the hits. We've cut our people to the bone," she said.

The commissioners should consider cutbacks in the money it provides to outside agencies, Mrs. Gouge said. Commissioner President Donald I Dell agreed.

Budget work papers that Mr. Powell distributed at the meeting listed 35 outside agencies that receive a total of $15 million in county funds.

Those agencies include the Arts Council, Carroll Community College, the health department, Human Services Programs, Social Services and the Volunteer Fireman's Association.

"We've been generous to them in the past year," Mr. Dell said. "It's time to get hard-nosed with the outside agencies."

Mr. Lippy disagreed, saying the commissioners should continue to look for ways to cut county administrative costs.

"We can't say our own county government is sacrosanct," he said.

Mr. Powell said outside agencies have been cooperative in the past in cutting their budgets.

Concerning the Board of Education, Mrs. Gouge said she would rather see administrative departments cut in the instead of school supplies.

Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said Friday he did not have details on any proposed cuts.

Mr. Powell said it will be hard to make specific cuts until Gov. William Donald Schaefer details how the 23 counties and Baltimore City should divide the $150 million he's asked local governments to cut.

Because the state allocates money for education, transportation, health and other services, it should dictate how the cuts should be divided, Mr. Powell said.

The Maryland Association of Counties will respond to the governor's budget reduction plan Oct. 1.

"It's been a difficult three years," Mr. Powell said of recent lean times. "And it's going to be a difficult couple of more years. This is a multi-year problem, and we have to address it as a multi-year problem."

But, he said, Carroll has weathered the recessionary times well.

"Carroll County is fiscally sound," he said.

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