Harford County authorities brace for another $6 million in budget reductions Departments told to find cuts of 2.5%

November 01, 1992|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Harford County executiveStaff Writer

Most Harford residents won't notice the county's anticipated $6 million loss in state aid this year because departments will reduce spending without layoffs, furloughs or reductions in services, county officials say.

County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann told most of the 27 county department heads last week to find ways to cut their budgets by 2.5 percent to help offset an expected $6 million reduction in state aid to Harford.

After taking a 2 percent reduction in state aid last year, county workers say they've got their work cut out for them. And they expect more state budget cuts next year.

"When people told me they couldn't see any difference [in county services] after last year's cuts, I was gratified because that tells me we are doing our job," said Larry Klimovitz, director of administration.

But, Mr. Klimovitz said, he doesn't want residents to think the county can continue absorbing cuts to the county's budget -- currently $163.5 million -- without reducing services.

"We have become more efficient and cut back on a lot of things to maintain basic people services," he said. "But what the public doesn't see is how dedicated our county workers are and how hard they work."

County employees are doing more work because 5 percent of county jobs have been left vacant -- twice the traditional average of 2.5 percent -- to cut costs, administration officials said.

Anticipated cuts in the county budget include $121,000 each for the county administration and emergency services, nearly $10,000 to the county's economic development office and $1,767 to human relations.

The 2 1/2 percent reductions to individual departments would pare $3.7 million from the county's budget. Mrs. Rehrmann said Harford could offset the rest of the expected $6 million in state spending cuts by using $2.3 million from the county's surplus.

The executive asked the school system to trim nearly $2 million of the $77 million it receives from the county. The rest of the school system's $141 million budget comes from state and federal sources.

The schools are in good shape to absorb the cuts because of an "austerity program" started this year, said school board member Keith Williams.

For example, he said, school and administration buildings are keeping their thermostats at 68 degrees, and some job vacancies aren't being filled.

The school system also will save money by using long-term substitutes instead of hiring teachers when possible, he said. Teachers' salaries average $35,000 a year while long-term substitutes make $15,000 a year.

Mrs. Rehrmann asked the sheriff's department to trim 1 percent, or $143,200, instead of 2.5 percent because it already lost $358,000 in state aid. Still, that would amount to the second biggest cut, after schools, in the county.

Harford County Sheriff Robert E. Comes said he would absorb the cut by canceling some orders for cars and other vehicles. Last year, the department bought no cars, he said, and some patrol cars have well over 100,000 miles on them.

"If we have to go another year, some of them will be hitting 200,000 miles, and your maintenance costs really increase then," Mr. Comes said. "But that is the only place we can cut."

Irene Padilla, deputy director of county libraries, said the libraries have yet to decide what to trim. She said the library was forced to cut back hours and some services this year, before these anticipated state cuts.

"We would really like to maintain the hours we have now, but we will have to look at the services we offer and make some hard decisions."

Public works will lose more than $108,000 from the general fund, the same source for most of the other departments' money.

In addition, the county's three other public works funds also would be cut 2.5 percent, under the executive's plan. Highway money would be cut $329,751; water and sewer, $274,947; and solid waste, $157,056.

The county Health Department, a state agency, will be spared more cuts because it has already lost more than $930,000 in state aid this year. Mrs. Rehrmann said the county needs to provide $800,000 -- half this year and half next year -- to allow the Health Department to maintain what she called basic services.

Mrs. Rehrmann said Harford Community College also was "excused" from the cuts because it lost $400,000 in state aid this year.

TARGETED BUDGET CUTS

Department... ... ... ... % of county... Budget... ... ... Anticipated ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...budget... ... amount... ... ... cuts

Board of Education... ... ... .. 58 %... ... . $77.3 million ...$2 million Sheriff's office.... ... ... ... 10.8... ... ...14.3 million ...143,200

Harford Comm. College ... ... ... 3.9... ... ... 5.2 million ... ... ..0

Administration ... ... ... ... .. 3.6... ... ... 4.8 million ... 121,229

Emergency Services ... ... ... .. 3.6... ... ... 4.8 million ... 121,088

Public Works ... ... ... ... ... .3.3... ... ... 4.3 million ... 108,714

Libraries ... ... ... ... ... ... 2.8... ... ... 3.7 million .... 93,098

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