BERLIN – Recent state of Maryland budget cuts will deprive the town of Berlin of $223,000 in state funding this fiscal year.
Berlin lost $205,000 in highway user revenue and about $18,000 in state police aid, it was announced this week.
“I’ve asked the department heads to recommend $230,000 in reductions,” said Berlin Mayor Gee Williams.
The extra $7,000 in reductions is intended to give the council some room to maneuver when assessing recommendations from the town staff on spending reductions.
The town received notice of the state cuts shortly after the last town council meeting, which has left staff plenty of time to work out where to cut spending to absorb the state reductions.
Williams said that the cuts would not be noticeable to the public.
“I don’t see it having any negative effect on our ability to provide essential services in any of our departments,” said Williams.
Berlin Administrator Tony Carson agreed, saying, “We haven’t reduced any services to the residents, which is paramount.”
Department heads, who will make their reduction recommendations on Monday evening, during the Berlin Mayor and Council meeting, are expected to suggest holding off on filling vacant positions and reducing some contracted work in the Public Works Department.
“We don’t have to eliminate anyone. We don’t have to do anything seen as radical,” Williams said.
Carson added, “What we’re looking at is existing vacancies we had budgeted for we definitely had a need to fill. In going back to departments, they’re realizing they could forgo them for this budget year. We’ll certainly re-examine this for next year’s budget. We’re all going to our part and do more with less.”
The $205,000 cut in highway user revenues, earmarked for road repairs and improvements, will not interfere with high profile road projects in Berlin.
“It won’t affect the major projects we’re doing on Grice, Graham, and Vine streets because we’re funding that ourselves,” Williams said.
The town is always appreciative of state funding, said Williams, but the town government normally funds most road work on Berlin’s roads through bond issues.
Sooner is better than later when it comes to state cuts, according to Williams. The fiscal year enters the second quarter in two weeks.
“I’d rather find out bad news early than find out late in the game,” Williams said. “It is easier to make adjustments to the budget earlier in the fiscal year.”
Although there are some signs that the national and global economies are improving, local governments typically see a lag between economic improvements on a large scale and economic improvements at the local government level.
“If things are getting better now, maybe we’ll feel the effects in a year or two,” said Williams. “We hope things bottom out here at some point so we can anticipate the next two to three years.”
While the state cuts are a setback, Williams is not worried about the effect on the town.
“I’m confident we’ll work right through this,” Williams said. “This is the third time we’ve asked the department heads, in this calendar year, to make budget reductions to a previously stamped budget.”
Williams said he trusts the town department heads to reduce their budgets without impacting residents.
“They’re on the front lines. They know they have to make their budgets work. They have to provide their services,” Williams said.