Balto. Co. board seeks budget deal

May 13, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore County Council budget deliberations veered yesterday toward a 1992-style deal with the Hayden administration to use council budget cuts to pay for more police officers or teachers.

Council budget cuts traditionally have resulted in a reduction of the county's property tax rate, and that remains a possibility.

But Councilman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III of Timonium,, a Democratic candidate for county executive, suggested the 1992 approach during a budget work session. Douglas B. Riley, a Towson Republican, endorsed the idea at the meeting, and Republican Berchie Lee Manley of Catonsville and Democrat Vincent J. Gardina of Perry Hall said afterward that they like the idea.

Mr. Ruppersberger said residents have told him over and over in the past year that they are worried about crime and personal safety more than anything else. He said the county must reassure people and provide for education to attract new businesses and collect enough taxes to pay for government.

Despite assurances from officials that money for hiring 173 teachers in the Hayden budget will keep class sizes down, Mrs. Manley said classes are getting bigger in schools in her area and that she is worried about it.

Council Chairman William A. Howard IV, a Fullerton Republican, said he would find out whether County Executive Roger B. Hayden is amenable to such an arrangement. But he and Pikesville Democrat Melvin G. Mintz, another executive candidate, made it clear that they have not given up on cutting taxes.

Two years ago, in the depths of the recession, the seven-member council made a precedent-setting deal with Mr. Hayden to use $7 million in council cuts to start a surplus rainy day fund and to hire police and paramedics to help fill vacancies instead of cutting the tax rate.

Last year, citing the need to rebuild county services, the council didn't cut the executive's budget.

Now, with the council clearly intent this election year on cutting at least several million dollars out of Mr. Hayden's $1.26 billion budget, Mr. Ruppersberger's suggestion seemed to present an alternative to Mr. Mintz's idea of cutting a few cents off the property tax rate.

But that didn't discourage Mr. Mintz. He said he thinks there are enough possible cuts to permit hiring more police officers and teachers and still trim the tax rate.

"Don't discount a tax decrease," Mr. Howard said, reminding council members that they raised the county's piggyback income tax in 1992 while promising to cut taxes when conditions improved. He said he, too, thinks there is room for tax cuts along with police and teacher hires.

"Maybe we can do some of each," he said.

The discussion came as the council perused possible budget cuts put together by council auditor Stephen L. Kirchner.

The suggested cuts ranged from $1,000 for equipment maintenance in central services to $6.9 million from giving county workers a 3 percent pay raise instead of the 4 percent Mr. Hayden budgeted. But there has been no suggestion from council members that the pay increase be reduced.

The council probably will make its final budget decisions next week.

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