Gary to present $733.2 million plan

April 28, 1995|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Sun Staff Writer

County Executive John G. Gary is ready to boost spending on public safety and social services at more than twice the rate of inflation.

Documents released this week by Mr. Gary's budget office outline a $733.2 million spending plan that he is expected to present to the County Council Monday.

Overall, county spending would increase 2.5 percent -- nearly a full percentage point less than the 3.4 percent inflation rate -- under Mr. Gary's plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

But allocations for the county jail and the police and fire departments would grow by at least 7.5 percent, the budget documents show.

The police would receive $48.2 million, up from $44.7 million. The Fire Department would receive $46.4 million, up from $43.2 million.

Spending on social programs also would climb, according to the outline released Tuesday. The Department on Aging, which runs county senior centers, would receive almost an 8.4 percent boost, from $5.1 million to $5.6 million.

Meanwhile, the county's other human and social services agencies would receive a combined 12 increase from $6.7 million to $7.5 million.

Some departments would see significant deductions.

Mr. Gary has earmarked 13 percent less for the county Board of Election Supervisors than it received last year, which included a primary and general election. The County Council and its staff would see a 6 percent decrease. Orphan's Court, which reviews challenges to wills, would have its budget reduced by 11 percent.

Others agencies would see slight increases. The county Board of Education, which accounts for 57 percent of the operating budget, would receive 2.1 percent more than last year.

Still, the public schools would receive the largest total dollar increase -- $8.5 million -- as its budget would rise from $408.6 million to $417.1 million.

Further details were not available yesterday. Administration officials have held the budget close to the vest. Some officials outside the budget process said they do not expect to see Mr. Gary's proposal until it is presented to the County Council at 11 a.m. Monday.

The spending plan appears to leave the county property tax rate at $2.35 per $100 assessed value -- which would cost the average county homeowner about $1,317. In a recent memo to council members, Mr. Gary had proposed increasing the tax rate by 3 cents, a move that would increase the average tax bill by $46 and add $4 million to the budget.

Mr. Gary still could introduce the tax increase and offer a supplemental budget in May.

The budget outline was included among work sheets distributed Tuesday in a meeting with Annapolis officials.

The work sheets were used by the budget office to calculate the discount, or tax differential, given to Annapolis residents when they pay property taxes to the county. City residents receive a break because the city, not the county, provide their police and fire protection, trash service and parks.

County financial officer John R. Hammond confirmed yesterday that the work sheets outlined this year's budget proposal.

Mr. Gary is widely expected by County Council members to propose hiring additional police and rescue workers, though several said yesterday they did not know exactly how many the budget would include.

"I see very little fat in this budget," said Councilman Bert Rice, a West County Republican. "It's a very lean budget."

On the campaign trail last fall, Mr. Gary said he would make public safety a priority, and pledged to hire 10-20 new police officers and 10 firefighters a year during his four year term. It costs about $66,000 to train and equip a new police officer. The county now has about 600 officers.

Also during the campaign, Mr. Gary proposed bringing new police technologies into the county, including a mobile drug-testing unit that he said would help catch drug traffickers.

Addressing programs at the jail, Mr. Gary proposed last fall creating a skills-training program for jail inmates, a new center for juvenile delinquents and an incentives program for employers to hire former inmates.

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