The Howard County executive told the County Council last night that the current operating budget deficit could reach $20 million and that he might have to seek council approval to borrow money from the water and sewer fund to avoid ending the fiscal year with a deficit.
Charles I. Ecker, a Republican who took office this month, also gave the council a "bleak forecast for next year," when he said budget cuts, a property tax increase or both could be needed to balance the budget. He declined to specify what would be cut or how much the $2.45 property tax rate might increase.
Mr. Ecker, a former deputy county school superintendent, said the county could not even approve continuing the current spending level of $286 million for next fiscal year, which begins July 1, without a property tax increase.
Besides the economic downturn, which hurt tax revenues, the county for the first time will have no surplus to apply to the upcoming fiscal year's budget. In comparison, a $25 million surplus from the preceding fiscal year helped finance the current operating budget.
He said the county could make reductions by not filling current vacancies, deferring projects and road resurfacing, and borrowing money from special funds.