Harford faces $13 million budget cut

The Baltimore Sun

Harford County Executive David R. Craig announced nearly $13 million in cuts to the current budget yesterday but stressed there will be no employee layoffs and insisted that work will continue on school and road construction projects.

The county will also meet the challenges to its infrastructure, associated with BRAC, a military expansion that will bring 10,000 more jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground, and it will move forward with other projects already undertaken, he said..

Despite the downturn in the housing industry that has led to reduced revenues from the transfer and recordation taxes, Craig assured residents that they would not see any decrease in services.

"We are faced with economic problems that are not ours alone," Craig said during a news conference. "The economy does affect how local government provides services, and it has shown us that it is not getting better. We have to tighten our belts. Failure to do that is not an option."

Additional cuts may be necessary early next year when the state releases its revenue figures, he said.

The county will rely on a hiring freeze and attrition, rather than any furloughs to the work force of nearly 1,300 employees. At least 33 vacancies will remain unfilled.

All 15 departments as well as the agencies that the county funds responded to Craig's request this month and cut individual budgets by as much as 5 percent. The Board of Education slashed $5.3 million from its operating costs, the largest reduction of all county entities. The sheriff's department eliminated $1.6 million, and the library system cut $500,000 from their budgets.

"Each of us made the decision to preserve the quality of life to the maximum extent that we could," said Jacqueline C. Haas, county superintendent of schools.

Agencies have restricted travel, meals and professional training, decreased the number of take-home vehicles, delayed equipment purchases and reduced operating hours at some county buildings, notably the main administration building in Bel Air.

"We are all in this together," Craig said. "No department or agency, no one is exempt. This will lead us through the imminent crisis and potentially through the long-term crisis."

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