New chairman wants council to help decide which programs must be cut BALTIMORE COUNTY

January 05, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

If Baltimore County's government has to shed some pounds, the new County Council chairman says, he wants his colleagues to help prescribe the diet.

Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, who assumed the council's top post last night, told his fellow councilmen that painful budget cuts in store for 1993 also present opportunities. The 3rd District Democrat called for a revamped county personnel system and a new, permanent procedure for turning some county services over to private firms.

Mr. Ruppersberger, who has represented the north county since 1985, was approved for a one year term by unanimous vote at last night's short legislative session. He succeeds 1992 chairman William A. Howard 4th, R-6th. Mr. Ruppersberger, a veteran Democrat, previously served as chairman in 1990. The council picks a new chairman each January from among its members.

The Timonium attorney said permanent budget cuts forced on the county this year by reductions in state aid are forcing county government in turn to shed programs it can no longer afford. He said he wants the County Council to be actively involved in that effort, instead of merely voting on County Executive Roger B. Hayden's proposals.

Mr. Hayden is now deciding which programs and employees to cut to make up for a projected $31.7 million budget shortfall this fiscal year, which runs through June 30. Since $27.5 million of that shortfall represent permanent cuts in state aid to local government, Mr. Ruppersberger agreed with the executive that county government will have to shrink. He said the projected layoffs of county workers Mr. Hayden predicted just before Christmas will give the county a chance to change a personnel and hiring system he called "cumbersome and archaic." He cited the proliferation of appointed, so-called "part-time" county workers who are hired outside the merit system, and he said the current system has "created a patchwork of needless roadblocks and illogical results."

The new chairman said he has already asked Mr. Hayden to join with the council in creating a task force empowered to hire a consultant to study the personnel system and recommend changes.

Mr. Hayden said he has no objection to examining the personnel system, but wants to do it internally first, before hiring consultants or setting up task forces.

Mr. Ruppersberger said he also wants the process of considering government services for privatization to "be incorporated as an operating policy in county government." That would include a standard government procedure for receiving and evaluating private business proposals to take over government functions. The council chairman assured Mr. Hayden in a speech prepared for last night's meeting that his legislative colleagues are willing to share the political heat for any controversial changes they make together.

Any embrace of the council chairman's proposal by the county executive would be a departure from Mr. Hayden's practice through the first two years of his term. So far, he has kept important decisions almost to himself, disclosing them to the council and other interested parties only as they are about to be announced.

Mr. Hayden has said he expects to be ready to reveal his proposed list of cuts by the end of January.

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