Cutting to budget marrow CARROLL COUNTY

December 03, 1992

The Carroll County Commissioners have decided to spread proportionally the pain of the latest state budget reduction between the school board and general government. Education will absorb about 52 percent of the $4 million in lost state revenue; the rest of government will have to shoulder the remaining 48 percent of the cuts. In addition, the county will have to find about $700,000 to continue programs that previously had been funded by the state.

Since education accounts for slightly more than half of the county's budget, the placement of the cuts has a nice, neat logic. However, we still don't know their real impact.

The advance word from the county budget office is that there will be no layoffs. Details of the $2.47 million in education cuts are to be released at next week's school board meeting. The commissioners haven't specified when they will announce the non-education reductions.

If none of 807 county workers is going to be laid off, the cuts must come from supplies, repairs, pay-as-you-go capital improvements and grants. The commissioners already announced that $600,000 in capital projects will be pared. The county's libraries and community college are being forced to pay for Social Security costs that the state previously paid. Those savings amount to about $783,000, or about one-third the money needed to balance the county's budget.

The commissioners have tried to offset the cuts by raising health inspection and marriage license fees, but those meager amounts -- about $65,000 -- will not offset lost state assistance. About $1.4 million still must be reduced from the general government operations.

With the county budget now at the same level of two years ago, the commissioners are struggling to make this final round of cuts. There is very little fat left. As one budget analyst put it, "We are cutting beyond the bone and into the marrow."

Complicating the picture is the timing. Since the budget year is almost half over and presumably nearly half of the county's $119 million has been spent, whatever reductions are imposed will have a devastating impact on the programs that are ultimately targeted. We can only hope that an improving local economy will make similar triage unnecessary next year.

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