Budget cuts likely to cause layoffs in Baltimore Co. Hayden unsure where, when, how cuts may be made

December 22, 1992|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Baltimore County government is likely to lay off employees for the first time next month.

"There will be people cuts. I don't see any way to reduce programs and services without reducing the size of the work force. Most likely is a layoff...," said County Executive Roger B. Hayden.

But there was no announcement yesterday concerning the number of workers who might lose their jobs, what departments they might come from and when layoffs might take effect. Mr. Hayden said he won't know for sure for about a month.

Mr. Hayden, who is operating a county that has a $31.7 million dollar shortfall resulting largely from state budget cuts, has said repeatedly that layoffs are the one thing he hoped to avoid.

Several County Council members, along with labor leaders, expressed surprise when told layoffs appeared likely.

"I can't intelligently comment until I hear something more," said Councilman C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, D-3rd, as he left last night's council meeting.

Council Chairman William A. Howard IV, R-6th, said he "was hoping something creative could be found to avoid layoffs, and maybe something still can between now and January."

Kevin O'Connor, president of firefighters Local 1311, said, "It's disgraceful that we have to learn about it from the press." He said Mr. Hayden refused to share his internal agency audits with union leaders to see if suggestions for cuts other than layoffs could be achieved.

"It's unconscionable to again force employees to bear this burden," said L. Timothy Caslin, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4. "Our people are under enough stress without now having to worry about whether their jobs are safe."

Edward M. Pedrick Jr., president of the county chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said he "felt all along the decision would be layoffs." He said he believes furloughs are unlikely in the wake of an arbitration ruling reimbursing police for five furlough days from last year. That decision is under appeal.

But Mr. Hayden said his comments shouldn't surprise anyone. "I don't see that this is different than what we've said all along, that nothing is off the table and layoffs would be the result of program review."

The executive, who earlier had refused to specify any particular budget cuts, said he "can't cut costs and not impact people," noting that most of the budget goes for salaries.

Earlier in the day, before acknowledging the necessity of layoffs, Mr. Hayden said he wanted to coordinate this year's short-term budget cuts with a plan to reduce the size of county government in the next two years.

"This is not just a fiscal 1993 solution," he said. "This should carry us years into the future."

Because the county will need more police, firefighters and teachers, a hiring freeze or early retirements in those areas won't work in the long run, Mr. Hayden said.

Though he said he has a fairly good idea of some cuts he intends to make, Mr. Hayden said he won't discuss them until he is absolutely certain and knows the effect the cuts will have.

The county's financial problems stem from a $27.4 million cut in state aid. In addition to the state cut, the county is expecting a $4.3 million shortfall in its own revenues.

The county has a $5 million surplus and could save about $3.5 million by not filling vacant jobs.

Some of the cuts can be passed on to community colleges and schools to absorb within their own budgets.

Even with these measures, "it leaves a gap," said Fred Homan, the county budget director.

Mr. Hayden also refused yesterday to say whether he'll favor another increase in the county's piggyback income tax, which last year increased from 50 percent to 55 percent of the state's share.

The piggyback tax is a local income tax added onto the state income tax.

The county can increase the piggyback income tax to a maximum of 60 percent starting July 1. That would raise up to $24 million.

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