Prince George's County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan suggested yesterday $6 million in cuts in the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission's proposed budget that would all but erase the WSSC's proposed sewer rate increase for next year and would turn a proposed water rate increase into a rate reduction.
WSSC commissioners, who represent both Montgomery and Prince George's counties, said yesterday they had not yet seen the proposed cuts. But Commission Chairman Johanna S. Norris, from Prince George's, said, "The county is in the drivers' seat. I think they will have to make a determination of whether we can live with less in the way of service."
The cuts Hogan proposes in the $359 million budget include a $486,860 reduction in employe wages. That could be accomplished, Hogan wrote in a memo to the County Council, by limiting nonunion employes at the commission to a 3.5 percent cost-of-living increase next year. Union employes at the WSSC have already been guaranteed a 6 percent raise.
Hogan also recommended reductions of $1.2 million in the sewer and water main repair programs, and savings of $1.2 million by hiring and overtime reductions.
Funding for two new wastewater treatment plants - a total of $162,000 - would also be slashed under Hogan's plan.
The budget proposal approved by WSSC commissioners in January called for a $7.4 million increase in spending over this year's budget and sewer and water rate increases that would have raised the water and sewer bills of Montgomery and Prince George's homeowners by $16 to $30 a year.
Under Hogan's plan, the 15 percent proposed increase for sewer rates would be cut to 0.9 percent, while the plan's 6 percent water rate increase would be transformed into a 3 percent cut, saving the average homeowner a few dollars a year.
The WSSC budget is subject to changes by the Montgomery and Prince George's County Councils, but both counties must jointly approve any cuts or additions. If both counties are unable to agree on a change, the original WSSC proposal is automatically implemented.
Hogan's recommendations on the WSSC budget mark the first formal budget presentation he has made since taking office. During his election campaign, he promised to cut the overall county budget and live within the mandate of TRIM, the voter-imposed ceiling on property tax revenuses. Hogan will submit his first county budget and his recommendations on the school board budget to the council later this month.
WSSC Chairman Norris, who had described her agency's proposed spending program as "a bare bones budget" in January, said yesterday, "I'm glad to see [Hogan] come on strong this way. He'll get at least part of what he wants, but not all. You have to remember that Montgomery County will have to agree to this, and they have their own interests."