Counties Begin Finalizing FY 2011 Budgets

As reported in the Baltimore Sun, many counties spent the last week finalizing the FY 2011 budgets, relying on furloughs and capital project delays to make ends meet.  Below is a recap of budget actions being discussed or taken  by counties.

Baltimore City officials continue to bicker over a proposed package of $50 million in new taxes and $70 million in budget cuts likely to lead to at least 250 layoffs. Although the fiscal year ends June 30, city officials have yet to settle on a spending plan for the year that begins the next day.

Harford County Executive Craig faced a $12 million revenue gap this fiscal year, but he eliminated it with five furlough days, 34 layoffs and no pay raises for county workers. For fiscal 2011’s budget he postponed equipment replacement, canceled training, and held vacant jobs open, which allowed him to lower the county’s property tax two cents for fiscal 2011. For the first time in 37 years, the county met the so-called constant yield tax rate that produces the same amount of revenue as the previous fiscal year. His no-layoff, no-furlough budget was approved by council members unanimously.

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. made eliminating a $162 million gap look easy. He took $118 million in cash from capital projects that could be delayed, and $40 million from health insurance savings, plus $4 million from unspent monies and the rest from surpluses while also getting key public safety unions to agree to two years without raises and higher pension contributions in exchange for no layoffs.

“We were able to bring it together without catastrophic things happening,” said Ted Zaleski, Carroll County’s budget director, about closing a $10 million budget hole this year. The county canceled some capital projects, and eliminated 93 county jobs.

In Anne Arundel County, executive John R. Leopold told employees to take 12 furlough days to help balance his budget, but he credited three years of cost-cutting for the lack of disputes this year. The cuts he did make came in areas not easily seen by the public, like savings in health insurance, and collaborative reductions negotiated with county unions.

In Howard County, executive Ken Ulman plugged a $19.6 million shortfall before proposing a budget the five-member council approved 4-1 with little real controversy.

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