Five ways Balto. Co. can save money and avoid tax increases

March 16, 2010

For 24 years I worked for Baltimore County bovernment in various different classifications, so I have a good idea of where the county can save money and cut spending. Here are my five top ways Baltimore County can save taxpayer money and not have to increase property taxes or reduce services:

1. The county gets millions of dollars in state and federal grants. Each grant allows the county to take 8 percent-12 percent of the grant for administrative costs. Many county agencies instead put all the money into the funded program, thus making the county pay for the management of grants from the county's general fund. The county needs to review all grants to ensure each county agency is using these funds for administration.

2. The greatest expense to county government is the cost of personnel. Privatizing appropriate county services can save the county millions of dollars in current salary costs and in future retirement costs. Privatization also stimulates the local business community. As director of substance abuse, I was able to privatize three county treatment programs without having to lay off any county workers. It can be done.

3. The county should develop an office of public/private partnerships where the local business community can be approached to develop highly visible partnerships where businesses can help pay for county services and receive proper recognition and marketing opportunities. A good example of this would be the increased need for Recreation and Parks athletic fields, where the business community can contribute to the building of these fields for a chance to advertise their product on the fields.

4. The largest part of the county budget goes to the public schools. Rather than allow the school system to have their own purchasing department, legal department, transportation department, library system and more, the county should incorporate these services into existing county departments, which provide the same service, thus reducing the cost of duplication.

5. The county should immediately review the benefit packages for the County Council, the administrative office, department heads and deputy department heads. Many of these positions are allowed to receive larger pensions than regular county employees, and they all have "golden parachutes" of unused sick time and vacation time, which is saved until they leave county government, at which time they will collect tens of thousands of dollars and can even retire early.

Now is the time to make sure we have the political leadership that is willing to be creative and think outside the box in order to maintain the standard of living we all have grown to appreciate.

Mike Gimbel, Towson

The writer is the former Baltimore County director of substance abuse.

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