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Council Talks Options as Budget Deadline Nears

As the finish line for the new budget draws closer, officials are still days away from a solution.

The first shots of budget season were heard this week. It’s open season from now until May 30, when the County Council is scheduled to approve next year's budget.

Members of the County Council and top county officials have been involved in talks throughout the past month on how to make the $1.2 billion fiscal year 2013 budget work. The budget must be approved by the end of May. The next fiscal year begins on July 1.

The hurdles involved in the 2012-2013 spending plan include a last-minute shift in teacher pension costs from the state for an estimated $11.5 million, and $12 million in maintenance-of-effort payments for Anne Arundel County schools.

Under the proposed budget, the property tax rate in Anne Arundel County would be raised from 91 cents to 94 cents per $100 of assessed value.

On Monday, the county government’s Chief Administrative Officer John Hammond laid out his plans for the budget, and was followed by County Auditor Teresa Sutherland, who had her own course of action for how to make the budget.

"This budget gets us through one more year, but eventually we're going to have to pay the piper,” Sutherland said.

Hammond said the county was in a difficult financial spot, and had to make some tough decisions in light of the circumstances.

"Between teacher pensions, and debt service, and health insurance, and inflation ... it doesn't get any better," said Hammond.

Hammond suggested making up the $12 million in maintenance of effort, the minimum the county is required to pay for schools, with the school system’s own $30 million fund balance. Under Hammond's plan, the school system would fund school projects the county would have otherwise paid for.

The school system’s Chief Operating Officer Alex Szachnowicz told The Capital that Hammond’s plan was possible, but they had the money set aside for other purposes.

Sutherland said she was able to recover most of the $12 million by slashing construction projects, including many from the county’s Department of Recreation and Parks, and some from the school system, such as sidewalk construction.

Sutherland said her focus was on cutting projects that were not related to health and safety.

All of Hammond’s and Sutherland’s proposals come in the form of recommendations the County Council can choose from when deciding what the final shape of next year’s budget.

On Thursday, the council will meet at 9 a.m. in their chambers to vote on budget amendments.

The full budget vote, and the vote for the tax-rate increase, are planned for 9 a.m. on May 30.

Frank Murray May 24, 2012 at 01:37 AM
AACC to a huge hit last year. Workers still have to take furlough days till June 31. The school system is playing games. Dept. of Rec. took cuts, Police and Fire also. School system has to many programs.

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