Harford to reduce budget by 5 percent

Local,Mike Silvestri
A projected $10 million income-tax revenue shortfall has prompted Harford County Executive David Craig to call on departments to reduce their spending by 5 percent.

“The citizens of Harford County should be assured that their government is being proactive in maintaining the county’s strong financial status,” Craig said.

The drop in income taxes, a main source of county revenue, combines with $27 million in new expenses for the next fiscal year for the opening of the renovated Bel Air High School and expanded Whiteford Library.

In addition, the state, which could face its own shortfall of $1 billion, may dump nearly $28 million in pension costs for teachers as well as library and Harford Community College employees onto the county.

Craig has asked the school system, State’s Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, libraries, community college and others to come up with a plan to cut their spending for this fiscal year.

Mark Wolkow, a Board of Education member, said board members and Superintendent Jacqueline Haas would have to take up the budget during meetings. A day after Craig’s announcement, Wolkow was not sure where the cuts would come.

“I expect that the superintendent will come up with some various options for the board to consider,” Wolkow said. “We’ve got a $400 million budget. You can do the math on that. That’s not going to be easy for anyone.”

The news about budget cuts comes the same week that an 11-member commission released its report on government efficiency and spending.

The bipartisan group convened by Craig 11 months ago made dozens of recommendations in its 39-page report about how to improve the government and reduce spending.

The committee pushed for various county agencies to be put into one building to reduce “operational inefficiencies,” a proposal already made by the county executive and rejected by the County Council.

The committee also recommended that each department be evaluated based on goals they submit to Craig and post on the Internet, that employees get training on keeping payroll and overtime, and that employees limit use of take-home cars.
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