Cuts planned in services for the needy Officials propose trimming $1 million in residents programs

'Meaner, leaner' government

103 jobs may be lost

moves needed to aid $5 million shortfall

March 08, 1996|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,SUN STAFF

Carroll's neediest residents -- from the disabled to those in crisis -- would bear the brunt of a $5 million budget shortfall under cost-cutting measures proposed by county officials yesterday.

The proposed cuts would mean the loss of as many as 103 county and county-funded jobs in nonprofit agencies. Most of the cuts would come through attrition, but some layoffs might occur, officials said.

"This is not a pretty picture. It's important to understand it is the picture we are faced with here in Carroll County," Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown told about 30 county and agency workers at a news conference yesterday morning at the County Office Building in Westminster.

Sluggish property and income tax revenue -- coupled with years of cuts in state dollars channeled to the county -- have left Carroll with $5 million less to spend for day-to-day operations next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

In proposing cuts, budget officials used a recently completed program that prioritized county services as a guide.

County officials stressed that the cuts unveiled yesterday are only proposals. The County Commissioners will begin meeting with the heads of department and agencies next week to learn the implications of the proposed cuts.

"Local government is a service, a service-oriented business," said Steven D. Powell, the county's budget director, explaining the cost-trimming mea- sures. "This is a budget that impacts all of us."

$1 million would be slashed from residents services, a host of county and nonprofit programs that provide counseling, emergency housing and shelter, and job training for the developmentally disabled. Four positions would be eliminated in residents services but the overall impact of the cuts could mean the loss of 28 county-funded jobs among agencies.

County funding for Rape Crisis, the Sexual Abuse Treatment Center, The ARC of Carroll County and Target Inc. would be eliminated.

Jolene Sullivan, director of the county Department of Citizens Services, declined to comment on the proposed cuts, saying only that she would make statements during a hearing with the commissioners next week.

"I do not want us to miss the impact on citizens services," Mr. Powell said. "We will be eliminating [county money] for disabled services. "You cannot reduce $5 million from the budget without impacting everyone."

Almost every county department or agency receiving county dollars would face some reductions under the proposals.

About $879,390 would be trimmed from general government services, the day-to-day operations of the county, including the planning, zoning, commissioners, permits and inspections offices. Twenty-one positions would be eliminated in general government services and residents could expect delays in permits, responses to letters and officials forgoing some grant applications. The county would trim $379,775 from public safety and corrections programs, which would mean eliminating money to pay for one state trooper and three positions in the sheriff's department, officials said. Other job cuts are expected in public safety and other programs.

In public works, $1.08 million would be slashed from that department's budget. Contracts for snow removal would be cut, meaning residents might face can look forward to delays in street clearing next winter. Three positions are targeted for elimination in this department.

The county would trim $333,965 from cultural and recreation programs. Funding for conservation programs would be reduced by $294,605. Those cuts would mean eliminating county funding for 4-H and home economics programs, both administered by the Cooperative Extension Service.

The county library system also would face about $600,000 in cuts.

The county's overall projected budget for fiscal 1997 is about $163 million. A $7.7 million increase in the county's piggyback tax has been earmarked for school construction.

Nearly half of the proposed budget would go to the Board of Education. That includes a mandatory "maintenance-of-effort" increase of $2.9 million. Other money would go toward debt service and fixed costs such as health care and environmental and liability insurance, Mr. Powell said.

Besides losing millions of dollars in state revenue each year, the county has picked up the costs of social programs, including home-delivered meals, senior health counseling and youth counseling services.

The county also has assumed a portion of the costs of health services, including inspections of wells and septic systems, food-service inspections, and school health and AIDS programs, county officials said.

Responding to the proposed cuts, Commissioner Richard T. Yates said voters made it clear in 1994 that they wanted a "meaner, leaner" government.

"I think we're going to become as lean and as mean as we can fTC be," he said.

Pub Date: 3/08/96

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