Spending committee urges 4.6% boost in '95 budget

February 08, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

An advisory committee that determines how much county spending taxpayers can afford has recommended an increase of 4.6 percent in the next fiscal year's operating budget.

Members of the Spending Affordability Committee, in their annual report to the county executive and County Council, recommended that the operating budget for fiscal 1995, which begins July 1, not exceed $691.2 million.

That amount, an increase of $30.4 million over last year's budget, reflects what the committee believes county taxpayers can afford to pay for services, based on the percentage of their personal income that is consumed by taxes.

The committee recommended that spending levels in the next fiscal year should not exceed 5.69 percent of personal income, the same level recommended for the last two years.

The county's preliminary budget estimate for 1995 calls for a $710 million total.

The committee also expressed frustration that past recommendations have been ignored. "Each and every member of the committee is deeply distressed that its recommendations appear to carry very little weight. We have registered this concern consistently in the past to no avail," Chairman Bennett H. Shaver wrote in a cover letter to the fourth annual report.

Members of the committee are miffed because County Executive Robert R. Neall submitted a budget of $666.6 million to the council last May, which was $22.7 million more than the $643.9 million recommended by the committee.

The County Council eventually adopted a budget of $660.8 million, which was still $16.9 million over what was recommended by the committee. With further adjustments, the budget ended up at $663 million.

As a remedy, the committee is proposing that if the county executive submits a budget to the council that exceeds the committee's suggested cap, he or she should identify the parts of the budget that could be eliminated to comply with spending affordability limits.

The committee also repeated a recommendation made last year that the County Council be stripped of its power to restore school board budget requests deleted by the county executive.

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