Harford furlough proposed

County executive's budget calls for largest general fund cuts in 25 years

April 01, 2009|By Jonathan Pitts | Jonathan Pitts,jonathan.pitts@baltsun.com

Many Harford County government workers would have to take five unpaid furlough days under a proposed budget released Tuesday afternoon by County Executive David R. Craig, who said the spending plan includes the largest cuts in the general fund in more than 25 years.

The proposed $811.6 million overall budget represents about a 9 percent reduction of the current operating and capital budgets, and includes no tax increases, Craig said. The new budget covers the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The spending plan includes no pay increases for county workers.

The furlough days would not apply to public safety and public education employees, but would extend to all other employees, including elected officials. Details of the plan will be announced soon, Craig said.

A struggling economy has forced much of the belt-tightening, he said, but he also had sharp criticisms for the state, which he said is asking the county to help solve budget woes of the state's own making.

Maryland has cut its support of county schools and libraries for next fiscal year and is even "helping itself" to a greater share of income taxes paid in the county, Craig said. Those and other measures will trim about $1.5 million from the state's budget.

"The state continues to act in bewildered fashion as to handling the fiscal mess they're in," Craig said. "I've offered to help them with their budget, but they don't seem too interested."

He said Harford's proposed operating budget is designed to maintain services, especially in public safety and education.

It restores the school system to this year's original funding level of $210.9 million. The system's budget was reduced by about $4 million earlier this fiscal year as the county tried to cut spending to offset a decline in revenue and maintain a balanced budget, Craig said.

The plan also includes a proposed $1 million increase for the sheriff's office to fund 10 new deputy positions and fleet rental expenses. Funds are also included to begin construction of a new Southern Precinct station near Route 152 and U.S. 40 in Edgewood.

The proposed cut in the county's current $472.3 million general fund budget, about $23 million, is nearly eight times the size of those made in 1992 and 2004.

"Through prudent budgeting, strategic planning and maintaining open lines of communication, we are effectively dealing with the pressures brought on by a problematic global economy and Maryland's budget deficit," Craig said. "We have put forth a conservative budget to meet the needs of the citizens we serve, while at the same time maintaining our work force without layoffs."

Craig's proposal next goes to the County Council for its consideration.

HARFORD BUDGET

Highlights of the proposed Harford County budget for fiscal year 2010:

Operating budget $579.4 million - down 6 percent

Capital budget $232.2 million - down 14 percent

Education spending Restored to $210.9 million

Pay raises None, with five-day unpaid furloughs for many employees

Taxes No increase

Source Harford County government

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