Craig to endorse Harford budget

The Baltimore Sun

Harford County Executive David R. Craig expects to endorse today the nearly $900 million budget, a voluminous document that gives about 1,200 government employees a 9 percent increase in pay without raising taxes.

Before unanimously approving the 2009 budget late Tuesday, the County Council cut nearly $1 million from operating costs and trimmed Craig's capital improvement requests by about $18 million. The seven-member panel also enacted nearly 200 amendments that balance revenues with spending.

"I got 99 percent of what I asked for, including the pay plan for employees," Craig said after making an unannounced appearance at the council session. "The council also improved the entire capital budget, except for the land-acquisition funds."

Craig had asked for $20 million for site acquisition and development funds that would have been available to purchase land for public projects and buildings, particularly schools. The $2 million that the council preserved will bring the fund to about $6 million, an amount the council called reasonable given the downturn in the economy.

"The budget is a constant learning process that we continue to refine," said council President Billy Boniface. "This year, there was a considerable amount of compromise. I am proud of the way the council worked together. We will move on from here."

The council will soon undertake a comprehensive zoning code rewrite. Members also will have to decide how to handle the shortage of office space that many county agencies are facing after the council rejected Craig's $82 million plan to construct administrative offices and a sheriff's headquarters in Bel Air, and renovate several older buildings.

The budget, which takes effect July 1, includes an additional $400,000 to cover the cost of renting additional spaces for county offices.

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