3% raises for 5,000 budgeted in Harford

March 31, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

Harford County's 5,000 employees would get 3 percent across-the-board raises under a $162 million spending plan released yesterday by County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann.

The executive's fiscal 1994 operating budget would increase overall spending nearly 10 percent, from $148.2 million, while keeping the property tax at $2.73 per $100 of assessed value outside the incorporated cities of Bel Air, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace.

The $6.6 million salary package would give county workers their first across-the-board raise in three years, and step raises for qualifying employees. In preparing her budget, the executive said, she estimated possible economic growth "very, very conservatively" and left an $8.1 million reserve to protect the county's bond rating.

"The economy is still very fragile. We don't foresee any problems next fiscal year but we have to be prepared for the unexpected," Mrs. Rehrmann said.

She said her budget assumes the state legislature will cut about $1.2 million in aid to Harford, including about $807,000 for local law enforcement, in the budget year beginning July 1. This fiscal year, the county lost about $7.5 million in state aid. Mrs. Rehrmann said she expects the state to restore about $1.5 million, including $930,000 to the Health Department.

The spending blueprint goes to the County Council tomorrow, and the council must adopt a final budget by May 31. The council can add but not cut money for education. It can cut but not increase spending for other county departments.

Mrs. Rehrmann said the budget actually includes little growth beyond the 3 percent raises. About $6 million of the increase would cover Social Security payments for teachers and other county employers; the state stopped such payments this fiscal year.

As always, the school budget accounts for the biggest chunk of county money, about 57 percent for fiscal 1994, up from about 53.5 percent this fiscal year. The school system would get about $87 million, an $11 million increase, including $5.6 million for Social Security and $4 million for across-the-board raises and step increases for the school system's 3,600 employees. The school system had requested $91.4 million.

The budget also includes up to $2 million to open and equip three new schools next year: Fallston Middle, Fountain Green Elementary in Bel Air and Church Creek Elementary in Belcamp.

The school system expects 1,120 new students next year.

Jeffrey D. Wilson, County Council president, said Mrs. Rehrmann's budget did not allow enough money for schools.

"I pledge to look hard at the budget so that dollars can be freed up for education," he said.

BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

* Increase spending nearly 10 percent, to $162 million.

* 3 percent across-the-board raises for 5,000 employees, first in three years.

* Retain property tax rate at $2.73 per $100 of assessed value outside of the incorporated cities of Bel Air, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace.

* Maintain $8.1 million surplus to weather further possible state aid cutbacks and retain bond rating.

* Allocate about $6 million for Social Security payments for teachers and other employees; payments were previously paid by the state.

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