Budget Cuts: Will it Be of the Paper or Machete Variety?
Recommended reductions total less than 1 percent. Also, deer was not on the menu at tonight's council dinner and Kamenetz weighs in on terror leader's death.
UPDATED (10:30 p.m.)—Trims to this year's budget could be the smallest in recent memory if today's budget hearings are any indication.
Three agencies—sheriff, Office of Information Technology and Permits, Approvals and Inspections—appeared in front of the Baltimore County Council for annual budget reviews. The three departments combined account for about $33.6 million in general fund budget dollars.
The county auditor recommended a total of about $68,000 in reductions—about two-tenths of a percent of the combined budgets of the three agencies.
The bulk of the recommended reductions—about $53,000—were proposed for the Office of the Sheriff, which is expecting a $172,000 decrease compared to the current budget year.
Sheriff R. Jay Fisher told the council he would agree to about $5,000 in combined cuts to his motor pool and office supplies budget. He argued to keep shift differential, overtime and three vacant positions in his budget for the year that begins on July 1.
The balance of the recommended cuts in Monday's hearings were for mileage and operational supplies in the Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections.
Arnold Jablon, director of the agency, argued to keep the mileage in the budget, saying that the majority of inspectors in his department use their own cars to do their jobs. The nearly $5,000 in operational supplies include postage and envelopes the department uses to communicate with applicants for licenses.
With the exception of the cuts agreed to by Fisher, the council will have to decide how much—if anything—it will cut based on the other recommendations.
Last year the council cut just $161,000 from then-County Executive Jim Smith's $1.6 billion budget. It was believed to be the smallest total reduction to a county budget in 20 years.
Based on Monday's hearings, last year's number might be hard to reach.
Deer was not on the menu
Prior to Monday night's meeting, the council and staff went to dinner at 7 West. It was a chance to discuss issues and prepare for the meeting ahead.
Many of the council members dined on salads, steak or crab cakes.
Councilman David Marks, co-sponsor of a bill allowing limited deer hunting in some county parks, took the opportunity to make a special request.
"You don't have venison do you?" Marks asked the waiter, who quickly informed the councilman that deer was not offered.
Marks, who is not a hunter, laughed and ordered a hamburger before explaining to a reporter that he was joking.
Kamenetz weighs in on death of terror leader
11:15 a.m. Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's former chief of staff, is credited with saying (and I'm paraphrasing a bit) that one should never let a serious crisis go to waste.
The same can probably be said with other important national and international news events—say the death of Osama bin Laden.
It's a lesson County Executive Kevin Kamenetz seems to be taking to heart.
Last week Kamenetz issued a statement about the beating of a transgendered person in a Rosedale McDonald's. Today, he's chiming in on the death of a world terror leader in Pakistan.
Within hours of the announcement of bin Laden's death, statements began rolling in from the usual officials—Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, Gov. Martin O'Malley, Reps. Andy Harris and Dutch Ruppersberger.
And then there was Kamenetz.
The freshman executive issued a statement asking county residents to "take a moment to remember those who perished in the horrific events of September 11, 2001."
Statements on international events from county executives are a rarity.
Ellen Kobler, a county spokeswoman, said the county executive "felt deeply about the event."
"I guess we're all Americans and we're all very affected by it," Kobler said.