Budget shortfall no surpriseIf some local government...


Budget shortfall no surprise

If some local government officials were surprised at the size of the state's projected $500 million budget shortfall, Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden is not.

"We've been saying since February that the state would be $250 [million] to $450 million behind," Mr. Hayden says.

Once Baltimore County officials learn the extent of the cuts, they will start deciding how to adjust the county's $1 billion budget. Until then, the county is evaluating its options and preparing for the next round of bad budget news, Mr. Hayden says.

Last week, Gov. William Donald Schaefer told local officials that he hopes to have a final plan for budget cuts ready by Sept. 15. Mr. Hayden hopes to find out the size of the cuts early, so he can spread them throughout the current fiscal year, which began July 1.

"It's all a mathematical game," he says. "Do we divide by 10 months, or six or five months?"

The later the state cuts take effect, the more harsh the county's response will have to be, the executive says.

The county is holding onto its $10 million rainy-day fund, a special surplus fund set up to handle budget cuts. The money will be held in reserve as long as possible, says Fred Homan, county budget director.

So far, the county has been told of $4.9 million in state cuts. Most of that money, $2.9 million, will come from the county's three community colleges. Another $300,000 will come from education aid. Mr. Homan says the county probably can absorb the rest without using the rainy-day fund.

Last year, the county lost $62 million from a combination of state budget cuts and reduced revenues. State budget cuts accounted for $35 million.

A Carroll County Circuit Court jury planned to begin deliberating this morning in the weeklong "cornfield murder" trial, after lawyers completed lengthy closing arguments yesterday.

What jurors need to decide is whether Abras Morrison, 21, robbed, kidnapped and murdered North Baltimore resident Margaret Cullen, 74, and dumped her body in a Hampstead cornfield last August.

Before deciding to go home for the night, jurors listened to closing arguments that lasted nearly three hours. State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman told them that the murder "was very, very, very well done. Mr. Morrison is a very intelligent, articulate man."

Mr. Hickman, rebutting defense attorney Michael Kaplan's assertion that Mr. Morrison's confession was coerced by Baltimore homicide detectives, said the one-time employee of Mrs. Cullen and her husband told police an accurate version of the killing.

Mr. Kaplan spent most of Friday and yesterday trying to show that the confession was not a voluntary one and, thus, not usable against Mr. Morrison.


In an event aimed at helping Baltimore's understocked school libraries, baseball fans are being asked to bring new children's books to Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Sept. 11, when the Orioles play the Milwaukee Brewers.

Volunteers will collect the books at the 7:35 p.m. "Book Night" game. The books will later be cataloged and distributed to elementary school libraries throughout the city.

School officials are seeking picture books and other books appropriate for children at levels from prekindergarten through fourth-grade. The books can be paperback or hard-cover volumes and should be new, not used.


A 20-year-old man was being held without bond yesterday, charged in the shooting death of a Pasadena man during an apparent robbery attempt Saturday outside the Valley Brook apartments near Southdale.

Rodney Lawrence Conyer of the 100 block of Faywood Court, Valley Brook, was being held at the county Detention Center on charges of murder and armed robbery. A bail review hearing was scheduled this afternoon in District Court in Annapolis.

The charges stem from Saturday's slaying of James William Helphenstine, 37, of the 1100 block of Wharf Drive in Pasadena.

Investigators said Mr. Helphenstine was outside an apartment building in the 7800 block of Southampton Drive about 4 a.m. when he was shot in the chest.

Detectives said they think the motive for the shooting was robbery.

An unidentified woman drove Mr. Helphenstine to the emergency room at North Arundel Hospital, said a source familiar with the incident. The woman told nurses that she did not know Mr. Helphenstine's name and left the hospital.

Mr. Helphenstine was in cardiac arrest when he arrived at the hospital, and he was pronounced dead about 4:45 a.m.

Witnesses to the shooting told police that they saw two men leaving the area in a white Chevrolet. Investigators searched the area for the men, one of whom was said to be wearing light blue bib overall shorts.

Mr. Conyer fit the description of one of the gunmen, according to Capt. Richard Smith, head of the county police Criminal Investigation Division.

Detectives who searched Mr. Conyer's home Sunday said they found a pair of light blue bib overall shorts.

Mr. Conyer turned himself in to police at the Northern District station at 2 p.m. Captain Smith said investigators had not identified a second assailant in the shooting.


For more than a year, Carroll Hospice has been working to get Medicare certification. The entire effort now depends on a three-day state survey that begins Sept. 1.

A state inspector will audit all hospice records, including patient charts, financial reports and volunteer programs, to see if the Westminster agency provides optimum services to the terminally ill. The surveyor also will visit the homes of three of the hospice's current 25 patients.

If a hospice earns certification, it can offer Medicare's hospice benefit to its eligible patients. The federal health insurance program, into which people pay during all their working lives, will compensate patients for all comfort care, pain medication and oxygen and is designed to help dying patients stay in their own homes.

"The return is tremendous for a person whose life is measured in months," says Julie Flaherty, Carroll Hospice's executive director.

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