Council proposes trimming its budget for next fiscal year Spending plan includes 1.1% cut in its expenses

March 11, 1997|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Council yesterday proposed a slight cut in its budget for next year that would reduce staff and trim newspaper advertising of council meetings and proposals.

It proposed spending $1.73 million on council expenses in the fiscal year starting July 1, down 1.1 percent from this year's budget.

The money pays for a 23-person staff, including five council members, assistants, auditors and clerical workers. It is a relatively minor item in the county's general fund budget, which is $336 million this year.

Some council members complained about the reduction of newspaper advertising, but the budget passed unanimously.

"Choosing any one paper is telling half or more of the county that we don't care much about telling you what's going on," said Councilwoman Mary C. Lorsung, a west Columbia Democrat, about plans to put different advertisements in county newspapers.

The council now advertises its meetings and legislative proposals in The Sun and the papers of the Patuxent Publishing Co. -- the Columbia Flier and Howard County Times -- which have similar content.

Councilman Darrel E. Drown, an Ellicott City Republican, suggested publishing the full legal ads in one paper while doing shorter -- but perhaps clearer and less legalistic -- listings in the other papers.

Under that plan, the council approved decreasing its advertising budget from $18,000 to $13,500 -- a savings of $4,500.

Drown suggested the local newspapers could bid for the legal advertising. Then he joked, "Let's face it, we generate enough news that they should do it for gratis."

Also in the budget:

Council member salaries would increase by $700 to $30,300 in December, under a schedule set by a semi-independent commission in 1993. The chairman would make $31,300. Council members, who also serve on the Liquor Board and Zoning Board, receive between $50 and $100 per meeting for those duties.

One county auditor would go from full time to part time, a savings of $14,228.

Overtime for council staff would be cut $2,000.

Auditing costs for the library and the agency that handles the county's human services grants would be moved to the budgets of those agencies, a savings of $17,500.

The council also hopes eventually to save money by eliminating one full position. Beverly Ambush, who supervised the council's clerical staff, died in December. Council Administrator Chris Emery said the council might fill her position internally, leaving a lower position that could be eliminated.

Pub Date: 3/11/97

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