Budget plan called too costly for taxpayers

May 05, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

The chairman of an advisory committee that determines how much spending county taxpayers can afford told the Anne Arundel County Council yesterday they can't afford the budget Executive Robert R. Neall has proposed.

"I'm here to enlist your aid in the task of reducing county spending to an affordable level," said Bennett H. Shaver, chairman of the seven-member Anne Arundel County Spending Affordability Committee.

The committee, mandated by the county charter and appointed by the executive, arrives at its budget figure as a percentage of the county's total personal income.

Next year, total personal income is estimated at $12 billion. The committee calculates that taxpayers can afford a budget that is a maximum of 5.69 percent of that total, or $644 million.

But Mr. Neall sent a $666.6 million budget to the council Monday, not counting $2 million for the rainy day reserve fund, which the committee doesn't include in its calculations. That budget is 3.5 percent higher than the committee's recommendation and represents about 5.9 percent of total personal income, which Mr. Shaver said is way too high.

"County spending has not been this high as a percentage of personal income since 1990," Mr. Shaver said. "And there were only four years in the last 13 when it was that high." Those years were 1981, 1987, 1989 and 1990, he said.

The current budget also exceeded the committee's recommendation, Mr. Shaver said, but by not as much. The maximum budget figure was $616.2 million, and the county ended up spending $625 million. "That's not bad. It's only 1.5 percent above our recommendation," Mr. Shaver said.

But the 1994 budget "makes us very unhappy," he said.

Mr. Shaver said he recognized the county faced extremely difficult financial problems in formulating the budget, including the property tax cap and the $15 million in Social Security payments for teachers, librarians and community college employees previously paid by the state.

"But that being said, how can we say the taxpayers should absorb this just because the General Assembly unloaded it on them," he said.

Dennis Parkinson, Mr. Neall's chief administrative officer, said the administration disagreed with the committee's assertion. To comply with the committee's limit would be "Draconian," he said.

"We would have to close some of our libraries. We would have to close some of our senior centers. We would have to cut back on public safety, police and fire," he said. "And we're not about to do it."

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