Howard budget outlook worsens


Howard County's budget picture grew more bleak when Gov. William Donald Schaefer unveiled his plan to close the state's $423 million budget gap.

One Schaefer proposal, to reduce payments to local governments by $32.9 million, could slice another $1.7 million from the county's revenues and bring its projected deficit to nearly $20 million, said Raymond S. Wacks, the county budget administrator.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker has scheduled a meeting with County Council members tonight in the council's conference room to explain the depth of the county's budget crisis, which has grown progressively worse the last two months.

Earlier this fall, county officials projected a $3 million shortfall. The estimate escalated, first to $10 million, and then last month to $18 million -- the worst faced by Baltimore area jurisdictions -- when the county tallied its income tax receipts for a three-month period.

Wacks said the county's financial situation would worsen still if the state legislature approves the governor's plan to reduce the amount the county would receive from a property tax grant and cut state aid to the county library, Howard Community College and the police department.

He said the county has tried to trim costs by cutting services, eliminating training programs and travel for employees and delaying capital equipment purchases.

Departments were ordered to submit plans to cut costs by 10 percent, he said. Some, such as the Finance Department, were unable to reduce their budgets by that much because they are more worker-intensive, he said.

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