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Current Budget Draft Means 120 Less Baltimore Officers

The Baltimore Sun via YellowBrix

March 25, 2010

More than 600 city workers – including 120 police officers – would lose their jobs under a stark budget scenario presented Wednesday by Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake’s administration.

Seven fire companies would close, 90 firefighters would be let go and more than half of the city’s recreation centers would be shuttered under the preliminary plan, which would cut key services to close a $121 million shortfall in the city’s $2.2 billion budget.

The locations of the rec centers, pools and fire companies that would close were not available Wednesday.

“We need to do what families are doing every day: be realistic and honest about what we can afford and focus funding on the core services that we really need,” said Rawlings-Blake. But she was quick to add that the scenario, which was drafted by the Finance Department to show what the city would have to cut if it didn’t raise taxes or fees, includes reductions that are “unacceptable and simply go too far.”

She plans to back an alternative – a spending plan that will include $50 million in new taxes and fees to mitigate cuts, especially to public safety – when the City Council next meets April 12. The revenue-generating measures must pass the legislative body, mayoral spokesman Ryan O’Doherty said.

While it is unusual for a city to present budget cuts and a revenue package separately, analysts said it was politically savvy of Rawlings-Blake to start with the realities of a stripped-down spending plan. “What the mayor is doing is making a case for the revenue enhancements,” said Ralph Martire, director of the Chicago-based Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. “If you don’t believe cuts are the best way to balance the budget, then you absolutely should lead with your most sensitive programs. That’s the best way to get people’s attention.”

But union leaders accused the mayor of “posturing” and attempting to frighten residents into accepting new taxes by presenting a doomsday scenario.

“It’s unfair to play games with city employees who are nervous about being laid off,” said Robert F. Cherry, president of the Fraternal Order of Police. “It’s even more disingenuous to play these games with the citizens and taxpayers of Baltimore City who demand real answers from the leaders of the city during these tough times.”

The Police Department would be hit especially hard under the plan, which would ground its helicopter, moor the marine units that patrol the Inner Harbor and disband its mounted police unit. Although the mayor has promised to maintain all patrol officers, 193 positions in the SWAT team, intelligence sector, traffic enforcement and special operations would be eliminated; 120 of those positions are now filled.

Under the department’s contract with the unit, the officers who were hired last would be laid off first. The department hired 25 officers with a federal grant in January and plans to hire 25 more with the rest of the grant funds in July. If these officers were let go, the city would have to return $10 million to Washington, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

City budget director Andrew W. Kleine acknowledged that cutting the positions could put the grant at risk, but he said there was some flexibility in the program.

The Fire Department, which took deep cuts in last year’s budget, would suffer again. Although the department’s budget would grow by $2 million, three fire companies, either trucks or engines, would close permanently, and four daily rolling closures of fire companies would continue.

With the rising costs of workers’ compensation, health insurance and other expenses, the department would need an additional $10.5 million to keep the companies open, Fire Chief James S. Clack said.

The city would “very likely see more fire deaths and injuries” if seven companies were closed, Clack wrote in a letter to firefighters. The mayor “has made it clear to me that public safety funding will be the first area of the budget to be restored if new revenue can be found,” he wrote.

About $1.5 million would be cut from the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office, including about $800,000 in funding for 14 community outreach positions in the city’s District Court.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, who accused the mayor and city finance department of trying to undermine her, said the proposal violates the Maryland Constitution.

“I know for a fact that they cannot specifically cut programs in the office. They can grant me general funds under the budget, but it is constitutionally impermissible for them to usurp my authority” by specifying cuts, she said. “It is my obligation to do that, not the city’s.”

The proposal carves deeply into programs that enhance city life – it would shut down seven swimming pools, halt tree planting and curtail bulk trash pickups – and cuts public funds for beloved traditions such as the Preakness Parade.

The Recreation and Parks Department, which a 150-member citizen panel recently described as “crippled and without direction,” would lose nearly a third of its $31 million budget. Twenty-nine of the city’s 55 recreation centers would be closed, and more than 161 jobs would be eliminated. Free recreation programs for seniors would cease, swimming and splash pools would close, and the pool season would be cut to five weeks.

More than 1,400 children would be dropped from summer programs if the rec centers were closed, interim parks director Dwayne B. Thomas said.

  • Blue_line_decal_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Don't misread this. The mayor doesn't WANT to lay off LE or firefighters. This was drawn up to convince the city legislative body that the only way to maintain services is a combination of cuts in some service that is deemed non-essential (parks and rec or whatever) AND tax raises. The plan is to make the people realize "Hey, we need all the LE and firefighters we can get, we'll pay a bit more for it if we have to." I hope it works for them. I hate seeing taxes go up, but I'd rather be out a bit more from each paycheck than come home and find my house burned down because the nearest fire station was closed.

  • Wings_max50


    over 5 years ago


    They will regret this soon enough. Unfortunately, no one listens or learns from past mistakes in politics unless it costs them money.

  • Snoopy_18_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Yes they are stupid! Aren't most politicians?

  • -paxp-deijejanuary2012bingoforhomelessfamiliesutahcyberslutsorg_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Not Smart to Lay Off Vital Public Safety employees during such violent times. Second Question what are they doing with the Federal Money they are playing with? Non Paid Gang Researcher 2005 to ongoing Study

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago

    Wow! lay off cops in one of the most violent cities in America! SMART huh! Gees!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago

    Are they just stupid ???

  • Img_0933_max50


    over 5 years ago


    They ploy is being used more and more, layoff cops and firemen. It's is one way of raising taxes without to many complaints from taxpayers. So they layoff the cops and then have to repay money to the feds from the hiring grant. Someone is really doing some bad bookkeeping in Baltimore. As for City budget director Kleine news flash there is not much flexibility with grant money. Be perpared to have a bigger hole in your budget for repaying the money and with less cop on the street. What a mess this is.

  • Erpd_swat_max50


    over 5 years ago


    It always amazes me how willing "city officials" will cut police officers off the streets. While I hate to see workers losing their jobs, police officers should not be something you would be so willing to cut. After all when the city is going to hell in a hand basket, people are rioting, shooting each other, and stealing everything in sight who are you going to get to show up? The garbage man? The street department? A community activist?

  • 12235_sq90_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Are they nuts !

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