Balto. Co. to eliminate 400 jobs Several hundred county workers could be laid off

January 15, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Baltimore County will eliminate 400 to 500 jobs this year, with the potential for layoffs of several hundred employees, Budget Director Fred Homan told a hushed group of county supervisors yesterday.

He said some workers whose jobs are eliminated may retire while others may qualify for vacant jobs that are not being eliminated, so the final number of layoffs is still uncertain.

Still other laid-off employees may be able to get jobs with private companies hired to do some public work, though pay and benefits are likely to be lower, he said.

Baltimore County has about 7,600 employees, not counting school workers. Of the 400 to 500 positions being targeted for elimination, 78 percent are currently filled, Mr. Homan said.

County department heads are to meet with County Executive Roger B. Hayden through next week to get their budget instructions. By mid-February, Mr. Hayden must make the final decision on the cuts, which will eliminate this year's $31.7 million shortfall and serve as the basis for next year's budget.

"The ultimate decisions have not been made," Mr. Homan said, so it is not clear when the layoffs will take effect.

Mr. Hayden spent the day in Annapolis and could not be reached for comment.

Once the logistics of the layoffs are decided, Mr. Homan said, "It's going to be relatively quick. You got an opening, you're qualified to fill it, we're going to move you. You've got a problem, you're unemployed," he said to several audible gasps.

Mr. Homan said county school officials, who are to present a budget to the school board in two weeks, have been told that they must absorb $6 million of this current year's budget shortfall, while community colleges must eat $1.6 million.

School board President Rosalie Hellman said the department has not yet decided how those cuts will be made. The county layoff figures do not apply to the county's 13,000 school employees, whose jobs are controlled by the school board. School spending accounts for about 42 percent of the county's budget.

Last year, to make ends meet, school employees were furloughed without pay for four days. Superintendent Stuart Berger has said the budget cuts may also force furloughs this year.

Mr. Homan's comments, the first to quantify the coming job cuts and layoffs, came before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 300 members of the county's Supervisory, Management and Confidential Employees meeting in the County Council chambers in Towson. The 800-member group is composed of supervisory workers.

Several union leaders said last night they had not been informed of the exact size of the cuts last night.

"I'm surprised at that amount. I don't know where they're going to do it. I'm upset about once again finding this out through the grapevine," said Edward M. Pedrick Jr., president of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 921, which represents the county's blue-collar workers.

L. Timothy Caslin, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4, said he knew nothing about the figures. Based on Mr. Hayden's earlier predictions of layoffs, the FOP conducted a strident, weeklong radio advertising campaign aimed at forestalling them.

"I don't understand why that information could not be shared with the police, fire or other union leaders," he said.

Ironically, the layoffs and job eliminations won't have much financial impact this budget year, which ends June 30, Mr. Homan said. He spoke at the meeting, he said, to emphasize that the county isn't just trying to find a way to get through '93.

The cuts will be long-term, designed to trim the size of county government so it can work through the '90s without more upheaval.

Noting that this year's property assessments in central and northern areas were nearly flat, he said assessments are unlikely to rise much elsewhere over the next several years -- further weakening the county's property tax prospects.

Also, $20.6 million of this year's cuts in state aid are permanent -- from now on, the county must pay Social Security taxes for its teachers, community college instructors and librarians. The state previously paid those costs. If the number of teachers increases, so will that bill.

"The bottom line is, we can't get any farther without layoffs," he said, referring to two years of state budget cuts and revenue declines that have cost the county about $90 million in a budget of about $1 billion.

"This is real. We are too large a governmental entity," he said.

Mr. Homan said that as part of Mr. Hayden's planned restructuring, some county agencies will be combined and the work of others will be farmed out to private enterprise.

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