Rehrmann halts Harford hiring, scrapes plan for office building


Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, on her first full day on the job, said she was ordering a freeze on hiring and other belt-tightening measures to make sure the county is in the black at the end of this budget year.

Rehrmann, citing declining revenue projections, said she was scrapping a proposal by the previous executive, Habern W. Freeman Jr., to build a new $15 million county administration building in Bel Air. Outlining the county's budget situation yesterday, she also said she was asking county agencies to look for other ways to save money before the fiscal year ends July 1.

"Needless to say, Harford County isn't in isolation in its economic problems," said Rehrmann, who was sworn in Monday. The general economic downtown, causing forecasters to project decline in income tax revenue and other sources, has hit other Baltimore area jurisdictions even harder, she said.

Her goal is to end the budget year with a general fund balance of between $4.5 million and $5.9 million, to enable the county to maintain its AA credit rating on bonds, said county Treasurer James M. Jewell.

Although Freeman kept a firm hold on spending and borrowing throughout the prosperous 1980s, the austerity measures announced yesterday are new to Harford. Rehrmann said she was surprised to discover a sharp drop in revenue projections when she took office.

Last year, Freeman had projected a surplus in the current budget of as much as $18 million. Such surpluses were common during his administration, and he used to money to finance his pay-as-you-go capital plan for building schools and other projects.

Rehrmann's hard line on spending does not bode well for the county school system and other agencies that are expected to seek increases in next year's budget.

County solid waste officials, for example, have prepared a trash-recycling plan that calls for the construction of a $5 million plant to sort waste for reuse. Rehrmann must still review the plan, which is an effort to meet a state mandate to recycle at least 15 percent of the county's trash by 1994.

"There is no money in the [current] budget for recycling," she said. The recycling plan was supposed to be submitted to the state in July, but Rehrmann said the budget situation means that it must be studied further.

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