Due to unanticipated drops in income tax revenue, Harford County’s Fiscal Year 2009 budget will be millions of dollars short, a deficit County Executive David Craig hopes to make up by asking all departments to hold back on spending.
During Tuesday night’s Harford County Council meeting, Craig announced all government departments were tasked with identifying plans to hold back 5% of their current (FY 09) operating budget. The goal is to establish a reserve of $6.8 million in anticipation of the as yet unidentified shortfall in the current fiscal year. The following county agencies were also asked to participate in the hold back: Board of Education , State’s Attorney, Circuit Court, County Council, Health Department, Sheriff’s Office, Harford Community College, Libraries and Elections. Craig noted that participation will vary among these agencies, but indicated that in all, up to $16 million could be saved.
Craig said there would be no layoffs at this point, however a Personnel Action Oversight Committee has been established to review and evaluate all personnel actions, an Expenditure Oversight Committee will review all purchases.
Craig also said school projects in construction or already bonded will proceed. He referred to them as the “top 10,” saying he believed the modernization of Youth’s Benefit and projects below it on the priority list would likely be delayed.
The county executive also said the use of county-owned vehicles will be reduced and restricted.
Looking ahead, the cost to maintain operations in next year’s (FY10) budget totals $27 million. If the State decides to pass on the cost of pensions for teachers, library employees and community college staff, this will add another $28 million, for a total potential cost increase of $55 million for FY10.
Also Tuesday night, in a case of awkward timing, County Councilman Dion Guthrie did not introduce a repeal of the impact fee, despite having announced his intention to create an “economic stimulus” by removing the fee on new home construction.
Instead, Guthrie offered a bill which would amend the current legislation to exempt residential reconstruction from the impact fee when a permit is requested within 15 years of demolition. Tenant housing would be covered under the exemption if the residence was habitable for at least 5 years. Guthrie offered no public explanation for his change of plans or for the specific nature of the amendments contained in the bill.