Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What We Talk About When We Talk About Cuts (Tuesday LINKS)

There is a saying in the personal finance world that you should "Keep the latte.  Cut the cable."  The idea is that while making small cuts in your budget can have value, the real savers are large items that will require true sacrifice or reevaluation of what you can afford.

We should receive a budget from the County Executive by Friday this afternoon.  I would not be surprised to see a Doomsday-esque picture of County finances, wherein the State's current funding scheme is presumed, with room to edit should Annapolis go back into Special Session before the July deadline.  What will be most interesting is to see what lattes are cut and who loses cable.

To Ken Ulman's credit, he has already asked his department heads to submit budgets presuming 12% cuts across the board (I believe 12% is the right number, but Google is acting up).  Asking his staff to take their own pound of flesh early on will prevent indiscriminate cuts from fatally impeding County services.

As we all know, Public Education makes up approximately 60% of County Expenditures.  After that, public safety takes up another 15%.  Maintenance, staffing, and upkeep of public facilities takes out another 12%.  General operating costs of the government, including legislative and judicial branches, costs another 6%, while Debt Maintenance and Reserve funds cost about 7%.  This leaves very little for lattes.

The greatest HoCo Policy wonk in the world would be hard pressed to show where cuts should be made to prevent the need for additional revenue.  Property tax and state funding have decreased while the Howard County population has continued to increase.  I don't mean to be dismissive here and would welcome concrete numbers suggesting where the fat can be cut.  But please don't come back to me with Healthy Howard or the defunding of Howard County's non-profit community.

Death by a thousand paper-cuts may sound aggressive and a proper representative of austerity, but I also think such cuts are irresponsible.  For a good portion of the non-profit community, a cut in funding is a final judgment on their existence.  These organizations are often a supplement to government services and their collapse would increase County expenditures in other areas (i.e., social services, County aid, public safety).

But in terms of cable -- Do we want to increase fire response times?  Close one of our libraries?  Prolong license and permit waiting periods?  Maybe just make Centennial Lake open on weekends?  These are the rather unfortunate questions that the Executive and Council are tasked with answering...and I wouldn't know where to start.


The Flier has a nice write up of the Silas Craft Program at Howard County Community College, which focuses on students who have struggled in school, but shown potential to excel.

County prosecutors will not re-try Wael Ali for the murder of his twin brother after the first attempt ended in a mistrial.  Extending the unusual family dynamic in this case, family and friends are recounted to have hugged the prosecutors after the decision was announced.

The Baltimore Grand Prix is cursed.  Recent reports are that the leader of the new racing group will be leaving in response to disputes with local businesses funding the race.  As noted in the piece, "The Labor Day weekend event is less than five months away, and the group has yet to launch a marketing campaign or sell tickets."  They have also delayed their interference with my daily commute, which is just fine by me.

The Anne Arundel County Council passed a 4-3 "no confidence" vote in Police Chief James Teare in connection with the indictment of County Executive Leopold.  This drama has officially reached "five ring circus" level.  If I were a resident of Anne Arundel, I would probably request that my Council keep its head in the business of the people and allow prosecutors handle the case against Leopold.  This reeks of political piling on.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: HowChow writes that the new Wegman's will have an upstairs liquor store, making it the premiere one-stop shop for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Super Bowl Sunday.  (Boarman's Market falling into second place as the only other grocery store with booze on site [that I can think of]).

Finally, a big congrats to our friend TJ Mayotte for completing the Boston Marathon under the extreme conditions of near 90 degree temps.  Anyone who has ever run 26.2 (or even 2.2) can tell you that heat is a tremendous factor.  In fact, one of the top finishers from last year stepped out mid-race due to cramps.  Not TJ.  He may have deliriously stumbled through the last two miles, but he finished.  (Yet to be seen whether a cooked brain has any effect on his writing...or whether he has a spirit journey to recount in his next column).

That's all for today.  Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!