Neall as Fozzie Bear ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

February 15, 1993

For all the moaning about budget woes, Anne Arundel ought to take a look north and count its blessings. What's going on in Baltimore County shows how comparatively lucky the county is.

Last week, Executive Roger Hayden hit his county with layoffs and budget cuts so severe that many residents will suffer a noticeable decrease in their quality of life. Nine library branches and four senior centers will be closed. And after cutting 1,150 jobs through attrition, 600 more posts are being axed, 400 of them currently filled.

Some people talk about Anne Arundel's executive being heartless? Bob Neall looks like Fozzie Bear compared to Mr. Hayden, who told some of his closest aides, unceremoniously and without warning, to hit the road that very day!

The brusqueness with which Mr. Hayden consummated these cuts does not deny their necessity. His county faces a $32 million shortfall. In contrast, Anne Arundel County should break even when the fiscal year ends June 30, despite absorbing $15 million in Social Security payments, formerly paid by the state, for certain workers. The fact that Mr. Hayden, unlike Mr. Neall, had fewer resources to bank in reserve is one reason he's facing such a huge deficit.

Anne Arundel has its share of difficulties, to be sure. The property tax cap, plus the prospect of reduced revenues means that, as in Baltimore County, government must be streamlined. Some people will suffer from these changes, mainly the 100-plus county workers who stand to lose their jobs.

And yet, it appears residents will be spared the impact that's in store for our northern neighbors. Mr. Neall is talking about concentrating cuts in administration and avoiding duplicative posts in departments due to be merged, lessening the effect on the average citizen. Unlike Mr. Hayden, who had to swing a heavy ax before his restructuring plan was ready, Mr. Neall has been able to restructure first. It is hoped that he'll be able to see which jobs are expendable in a new system and spare workers the misery of extended uncertainty by announcing specifics soon.

As the budget season wears on, we'll hear from these workers and other unhappy campers. But, as Baltimore County showed, Anne Arundel's tough times could be worse.

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