Balto. Co. is rejecting tax increase Ruppersberger again vows to hold line on levy in budget

Still, receipts 'abysmal'

Council seen backing funding priorities of schools, police, jobs

February 08, 1996|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Offering a preview of 1996-1997 spending plans, Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger IIIhas repeated his pledge not to raise taxes, despite income tax receipts that his budget chief calls "abysmal."

And what money there is in the capital budget will be directed toward schools, public safety, economic development and revitalizing older neighborhoods, Mr. Ruppersberger said.

The executive should get no argument from the County Council.

"I think the council shares the executive's priorities in these areas and I think there is no sentiment to raise taxes," council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz said yesterday.

Tuesday night, Mr. Ruppersberger laid out requests and spending limits for the next capital budget, adding that the only way the county can climb out of its doldrums is to curtail government spending and encourage business and job growth.

"A lot of times we get hung up in this county on growth, but we have to grow," he told a committee of the Planning Board. "We have to communicate that to our community groups. The same people asking for services are some of the same people who, when we try to move forward with jobs and growth, are there stonewalling."

The capital budget requests contain few new projects.

The Office of Economic Development is seeking $20 million for a new loan guarantee program and an additional $8 million for the Sunny Day Fund to encourage business development over the next seven years.

The Office of Community Conservation is seeking $50 million during the next seven years for neighborhood revitalization.

The Police Department is seeking $2.6 million for a new Towson Precinct building and $935,000 to renovate the North Point Precinct building in the fiscal 1997-1998 budgets.

The school board, which submitted its capital budget request in September, is seeking $54 million from the county in fiscal 1997 and 1998 to help renovate Towson and Catonsville high schools and build additions to Perry Hall High School, Catonsville Middle School and Franklin Elementary School.

The Planning Board committee will spend the next month reviewing a long wish list from county agencies before recommending a capital spending plan for fiscal 1998 through 2003. The plan is updated every other year.

Mr. Ruppersberger said the county can afford no more than $1 million in cash expenditures in fiscal 1997, in addition to $155 million in bonds approved two years ago for fiscal 1996 and 1997. He said the county would be limited to $2 million in cash and $155 million in bonds for fiscal 1998 and 1999.

Requests from department heads are $4 million in cash for the next fiscal year in addition to the bond money already approved. The departments also want $52 million in cash and $200 million in bonds for fiscal 1998 and 1999.

The county has had to curtail spending and offer early retirement to some workers in the face of lower-than-expected tax receipts.

Budget Director Frederick J. Homan said the county had expected tax receipts to grow about 2 percent last summer, but they didn't grow at all.

"Maryland is lagging the nation and Baltimore County is lagging in many statistical areas for the state," he said.

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