Residents make plea for programs Final hearing held on proposed cuts for fiscal 1997

More than 200 attend

Commissioners must trim $5 million

March 24, 1996|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,SUN STAFF

Carroll's budget hearings concluded yesterday with a parade of parents, senior citizens, coaches and others urging the County Commissioners not to cut money for recreation programs, parks, museums and a heavily used nonprofit transportation system.

The county's final hearing on proposed budget cuts for fiscal 1997 was reminiscent of others at the Agricultural Center in Westminster during the past two weeks. The hearing room filled to capacity more than 200 people showed up yesterday, many wearing T-shirts or ribbons to support threatened programs.

Faced with trimming $5 million for next fiscal year, Carroll's budget staff has proposed sweeping cuts for the county's day-to-day government operations and a number of nonprofit agencies that help the economically disadvantaged and developmentally disabled. The cuts could mean the loss of 103 county and county-funded jobs at nonprofit groups.

The public library system, which has highest circulation rate per capita in Maryland, the county's recreation and parks program and public safety efforts also face substantial cuts. The cuts have been prompted by sluggish property and income tax revenues.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said the well-attended hearings have given the board a "picture of what Carroll County would look like if we lived within these revenue projections."

"We've also been given a picture of the Carroll County most of us prefer, what we want it to be. It was important for us to see these pictures," he said.

Commissioner Richard T. Yates reiterated yesterday that the proposed cuts were only recommendations and that "nothing has been cast in stone." The commissioners are expected to unveil their proposed budget early next month. A public hearing on the commissioners' spending plan for fiscal 1997, which begins July 1, will be held May 9 at Westminster High School.

Roberta Stein came in her electric wheelchair yesterday to persuade commissioners not to trim $80,150 for Carroll Transit System, a private, nonprofit agency that provides transportation for elderly and disabled people. Mrs. Stein, a music teacher, uses the service to get to and from teaching jobs in the county.

"If I did not have access to Carroll Transit, I would not have access to any of these jobs," Ms. Stein said. "My disability no longer allows me to drive. One of the reasons we moved to Carroll County was because you had this transportation system. It has allowed me to maintain my independence."

Jim Mathis, executive director of Carroll Transit System, said losing 58 percent of the agency's county funding would mean fewer vans and fewer hours of operation, severely curtailing its ability to serve those who rely on the system.

Under the proposed cuts, Carroll Transit's hours would be limited to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The system now operates from 6: 30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and serves 6,500 to 7,000 people a month.

"The need for transportation does not disappear in our community even if the money to support it does," Sue Yingling, Carroll Transit board president, told the commissioners.

Recreation and Parks Director Richard Soisson said a $333,965, or 13 percent, reduction in county funding for recreation programs and related services would mean the loss of 13 full- and part-time positions. The cutbacks would hinder recreation councils, adult and youth recreation programs and county parks and sports facilities, he said.

"With these proposed reductions, we would not be cutting into the fat, we would be cutting into the meat," Mr. Soisson said, noting that recreation programs and parks are used by thousands of county residents.

Representatives from the Union Mills Homestead, Carroll County Farm Museum, Piney Run Park, Hashawha Environmental Center, county nature programs and Carroll County Arts Council also detailed how the proposed cuts would affect their operations.

"It's going to be very difficult in this economic climate to replace that money," said Charles Fisher, a Union Mills board member, referring to the proposed elimination of the museum's county allocation of $15,000.

Dottie Freeman, Carroll County Farm Museum administrator, said a proposed 13 percent, or $66,915, reduction in county money would mean the loss of necessary staff, including a full-time conservator, part-time coordinator and a tour guide.

"This cut will cripple or eliminate [museum] services," she said. "Our hours will be reduced, our education and special programs will be eliminated and 10,000 artifacts will lapse into a state of decline" without a conservator.

Pub Date: 3/24/96

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