Frederick County balances budget; 106 employees let go

By Patti S. Borda

Saturday - 2/26/2011, 11:51am EST

One last round of cuts has taken the jobs of 23 full-time Frederick County employees, 15 vacancies, and balanced the fiscal 2012 budget in time for March 8.

Board of County Commissioners President Blaine Young said Friday the 38 eliminated positions affected almost all divisions. The decision was made during a closed session Thursday, but he did not say what the vote was.

The personnel changes announced Friday result in a reduction in salary and benefit costs of more than $2.4 million beginning in fiscal 2012. Of the 23 filled positions that were eliminated, 14 were in management positions.

Department directors recommended positions to eliminate, and a committee that included County Manager Barry Stanton, human resources personnel and finance department representatives made the final recommendation for board approval, Young said.

"I don't want to know who's on the list (of staff to be cut). ... Then it gets too personal," Young said.

Since taking office in December, the board has been cutting down an $11.8 million deficit in a projected $452.5 million 2012 budget. Young said it helped that the Board of Education agreed to cut $3.2 million from its budget.

Young said the county expects to contribute $220 million as it did last year for schools and will add $550,000 to account for increased enrollment.

In the past two months, a total of 126 positions have been cut for a savings of $6.2 million: 106 full-time employees in previously filled positions at $4.8 million and 20 full-time employees in previously vacant positions at $1.4 million.

The commissioners have reduced the county's budgeted positions by 7 percent since Dec. 1. That number includes the staff-recommended elimination of 34 vacant firefighter positions.

The balanced budget contains full funding for retiree health costs as part of a five-year effort to fully cover liabilities of post-employment benefits, and does not use the fire tax revenue or the recordation tax revenue to balance the budget; the commissioners fully restore the fire tax fund. About $5.4 million in savings materialized in the past week because of improved revenue projections, and reduced insurance cost estimates and interest payments, Young said.

A public hearing on the budget will take place in April, but no changes will be made to the personnel decisions that have been made, Young said. The public may speak March 8 or at any meeting, he said.

Employees who lost their jobs receive severance pay and pay for their accrued leave, continuation of their health insurance for one month and assistance from Frederick County Workforce Services.

This is the last round of layoffs and cuts to be made as long as the state does not put a greater financial burden on the county, Young said.

If the state does not fully fund teacher pensions, it could mean more layoffs, furloughs or pay reductions for county employees, he said.

He said the goal was to make cuts without failing to provide county services, and he appreciates that remaining staff will be doing more with less: "They're going to have more responsibility."

Copyright 2011 The Frederick News-Post. All rights reserved.