Harford's new executive announces spending cuts

Craig to freeze hiring by county, ask department heads to trim 10%

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July 08, 2005|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,SUN STAFF

Moments after being sworn into office, new Harford County Executive David R. Craig announced yesterday broad spending cuts that he hopes will lead to a property-tax break next year.

He said he will impose a county government hiring freeze and direct department heads to cut spending by 10 percent for at least the first 90 days of his term. The cuts would not apply to schools or the sheriff's office.

"I believe that in good times we need to prepare for the bad times," the former Havre de Grace mayor told about 150 people during an inauguration ceremony at Harford Circuit Court.

The 56-year-old Republican also pledged to ease crowding in schools so that all portable classrooms would be removed by the end of his tenure.

"That's very aggressive for 16 months," Councilman Dion F. Guthrie, the County Council's lone Democrat, said after Craig's speech. "I would have thought he may take a more go-with-the-flow approach, [so as] not to rock the corridors so he could go into the next election without disturbing much."

Craig was chosen by the council Tuesday to fill the remaining 16 months of the term of James M. Harkins, who resigned to take a job in the Ehrlich administration. Craig has declared that he will run for executive in November 2006.

He made it clear yesterday that he wants to introduce an era of fiscal belt-tightening in Harford County.

In an interview before his inauguration, Craig said he hoped to apply his 10 percent spending cut for the entire year. That would save about $6 million, using figures from the general government fund of the operating budget.

"The ultimate aim will be to try to roll back some of the taxes for next budget," Craig said.

Craig, who will meet with county department heads today, announced his initiatives moments after placing his hand on a Bible and being sworn in by County Clerk of Court James Reilly.

He became Harford County's sixth executive - and the second Republican - since the county charter was adopted in 1972. Harford is the only Maryland county with charter government to have a Republican leader.

His biggest task this year will be comprehensive rezoning, a process that happens at least every eight years and gives property owners the opportunity to apply for zoning changes. The process could help determine how many more homes and businesses will be built in the county. "We do not need to open up the development envelope for more growth," Craig said.

The county has received more than 330 requests for rezoning. Craig pledged to submit to the council by Nov. 1 the administration's recommendations on which properties should be rezoned.

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