Baltimore County Council Set to Approve $1.6 Billion Budget

… Calling it ‘lean,’ members say minor cuts will ensure basic services …

baltimoresun.com

By Raven L. Hill, The Baltimore Sun

6:20 AM EDT, May 26, 2011

Baltimore County Council members are expected to approve Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s $1.6 billion budget Thursday, having agreed to only minor spending cuts last week.

The council voted last week to cut the budget by about $258,200 — a fraction of the $1.5 million recommended by the county auditor.

The budget vote is set for 10 a.m.

Kamenetz trimmed dozens of jobs and pulled $61 million from reserves — nearly six times the amount used last year — to balance the budget, leaving property and income tax rates unchanged. The budget increased less than 1 percent over last year’s plan. The county has approximately $150 million in reserves, about 10 percent of the total budget.

The Fire Department would have faced a $700,000 hit under the auditor’s recommendations — the largest recommended cut. Several agencies and departments and the school system did not face any cuts.

When he introduced the budget last month, Kamenetz said that throughout his 17 years in local government, the county has never faced declining revenues. More than 180 vacant county jobs have been cut since December, bringing the employee rolls down to the lowest number in 25 years.

The county is in the final year of an agreement with unions to forgo cost-of-living increases in exchange for job security.

Kamenetz and council members have also urged school Superintendent Joe A. Hairston to find ways to restore 196 vacant teaching positions. Hairston said he would consider keeping some if money becomes available.

raven.hill@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun

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