Baltimore County Executive Unveils 2011 Budgets

Thursday April 15, 2010

… $1.6 billion proposal would cut spending by 4 percent …

By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

10:00 AM EDT, April 15, 2010

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. delivered his eighth and final budget to the County Council today knowing the fiscal message would yield little applause.

“This is a maintenance budget that is responsive to these perilous economic times,” Smith said before the announcement this morning.

The $1.6 billion operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 would cut spending by 4 percent. Smith said it would maintain services without increase property or income taxes. It would also keep the cap on property assessment increases at 4 percent, which Smith said would save homeowners about $172 million.

The county’s 8,000 employees will not face layoffs or furloughs. The proposed budget, which the council will review for the next several weeks, creates “a healthy fund balance in anticipation of a continued flat economy,” Smith said.

“Good leadership means when you leave, you leave the budget in good shape,” said Smith, who is nearing the end of his second term. “This puts everything into a realistic context and bodes well for the future of Baltimore County.”

The budget also includes what Smith said were the fewest capital projects in several years. Many such projects have been postponed “because of the fiscal realities in which we live.” Those delays allowed the county to address an estimated $164 million revenue shortfall for this year.

Newly negotiated union contracts will also fill in the budget gap and will save the county about $16 million in 2011 and as much as $25 million annually in the next several years. Unions representing the county’s 8,000 workers agreed to forego cost of living raises for the next two years and contribute more to pensions in exchange for job security.

Many departments have trimmed costs by $4 million, officials said.

“This is a sound budget that will handle 2011 and beyond,” Smith said. “We have looked up and down the road with a solid fiscal vision.”

Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun

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