Hiring and spending freezes designed to preserve Arundel's 'fiscal health'


Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall today announced an immediate hiring freeze and spending controls for all county agencies to avoid a shortfall in the county's budget.

The measures are intended to "safeguard [the county's] fiscal health so that we can successfully weather the national recession," Neall said in making the announcement to a meeting today of the Anne Arundel County Trade Council in Annapolis.

The hiring freeze, he said, would extend to both merit and contract positions. The county's school system, Anne Arundel Community College and the libraries also have been asked to impose hiring freezes and similar spending controls.

Layoffs would only be made as a last resort, he said.

Also frozen as of today are all out-of-state travel and capital expenses of more than $500, unless Neall approves them. Restrictions have also been placed on the hiring of consultants and building renovations.

The measures are expected to save $2.2 million over a 12-month period, Neall told the business group.

Before making the announcement, Neall displayed several graphs that indicated county revenues were no longer increasing as they had in the previous four years.

Revenues were projected to remain stagnant through next year. The charts did not indicate the county would suffer a revenue shortfall, as the state and some other metropolitan area counties have projected. Just last week, it was projected Anne Arundel would end the 1991 fiscal year next June with a $12 million surplus.

Officials in neighboring Howard County now project their 1991 fiscal year deficit at around $20 million, due to lower income tax revenues than were predicted. Carroll County has announced that it is facing a $2.5 million shortfall. But the state has been the only government entity to propose layoffs, of as many as 1,800 workers, to help cover its projected $243 million shortfall.

Neall, linking his county's fiscal status to the national recession, said he did not know how long the budget freezes would remain in effect or whether additional measures would have to be taken in the future.

"We are monitoring the effects of this downturn on our revenues on a daily basis," Neall said in a statement released after the trade council meeting. "Depending on our situation, I intend to take action accordingly.

"In these uncertain times, we must plan ahead to do all we can to avoid a deficit. If we don't, we very well may have twice as much pain to contend with next year," Neall said.

Meanwhile, county school officials announced last week they project an $8 million deficit in their portion of the budget.

School officials say County Council members ought to share the blame and take responsibility for a bailout. County officials have warned school Superintendent Larry L. Lorton that the county is faced with its own budget crises and that school officials are on their own.

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