Baltimore County devises $4 million savings package Budget cuts span wide spectrum of local services


Baltimore County residents may have to wait longer for a building permit, will have their streets swept less often and will be charged to have large items collected by trash haulers, as part of a cost-saving package announced yesterday.

Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden, struggling to save $30 million to offset sagging county revenues and proposed state budget cuts, announced $4 million in austerity measures last night.

The latest round of savings cut across the spectrum of county services, ranging from a $22,000 savings from closing senior centers on county holidays to paring $400,000 by extending use of the county's 500 police patrol cars from 80,000 miles to 120,000 miles.

Mr. Hayden said his top priority in deciding what to cut was maintaining essential services and minimizing the impact on the average taxpayer.

"We looked at things that were doable, and at ways that we could bring money back into the county wherever that was possible," Mr. Hayden said.

The two big-ticket items axed -- at least for now -- are the construction of a multi-use government building in Pikesville and purchase of the $1.9 million Bacon Hall farm, a 241-acre tract in Hereford being eyed as a park and possible school site.

The Pikesville building was seen as a key to the community's revitalization efforts. But Mr. Hayden said it has been "put on hold for an undetermined amount of time" because of the budget crunch.

He said that officials from Catonsville Community College, which was expected to be one of the proposed building's major tenants, had told him that because of the school's budget problems they would not have been able to lease the space.

Budget director Fred Homan said delaying construction will save an estimated $600,000 a year.

Plans to buy the Bacon Hall property were controversial because many northern county residents opposed a school or park on the pristine woods and farmland.

The cuts came four days after Mr. Hayden said he planned to save $13 million by furloughing county employees for five days.

In recent months, he has instituted a hiring freeze and an early retirement program, halved the number of county cars taken home each day by employees and closed the county libraries for seven additional days this year.

Despite the cuts announced yesterday, Mr. Hayden faces a deficit of roughly $13 million.

He said yesterday that more cuts will be announced by mid April, when he must present his operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

"The situation now is very, very fluid, but we wanted to get people on board, and get people talking about savings," he said.

Mr. Hayden said that anyone who wants to have large trash items, such as old refrigerators, collected at curbside will have to pay for the service, with fees averaging roughly $10. The fees are expected to net roughly $500,000.

Adults participating in county recreation tournaments also will have to pay user fees, he said. That is expected to net $10,000.

Permits and licenses branch offices will be closed during the lunch hour and animal control officers will only respond to stray animal complaints between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The service had been available 24 hours a day.

Other cuts and savings measures include:

* Using recaps instead of new tires for the rear wheels of the county's 1,200 trucks and other heavy vehicles for an annual savings of $225,000.

* Charging for the school nurses assigned to 31 private schools, for a $490,000 savings. The county is the only jurisdiction in Maryland that provides the service free.

* Discontinuing the shuttle service for seniors to senior centers, for a $52,000 savings. Closing those centers on holidays to save $22,000.

* Eliminating the Sunday in the Park festival held each summer at Oregon Ridge, for a $40,000 savings.

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